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Finding Your Roots


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#1

Aurora Borealis

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Posted Mar 26, 2012 @ 10:54 AM

This show premiered last night on PBS. It's an hour long, and features two stories per hour.

Last night two episodes were aired - Harry Connick Jr./Branford Marsalis and Congressman John Lewis (D-GA)/Mayor Cory Booker (Newark, NJ).

I can already say that I prefer this show to 'Who Do You Think You Are?' The featured celebrities seem to have been genuinely surprised on camera (there were believable tears), and the tone of this series just seemed more, I don't know, let's just tell the story and leave out the overly dramatic reactions. Professor Gates is the perfect host - I found him and his interactions with the featured celebrities to be genuine and engaging.

Looking forward to next week. Full episodes are online at PBS.org and the whole series is on DVD.

eta - correction to spelling of Rep. Lewis's last name.

Edited by Aurora Borealis, Mar 26, 2012 @ 12:19 PM.


#2

livinggreen

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Posted Mar 26, 2012 @ 11:20 AM

I also prefer this to WDYTYA

Edited by livinggreen, Mar 26, 2012 @ 12:38 PM.


#3

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Posted Mar 26, 2012 @ 11:52 AM

Didn't know about this -- can't wait. I've enjoyed all of Gates' other genealogy shows.

#4

Aurora Borealis

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Posted Mar 26, 2012 @ 12:15 PM

kassa, you're in for a treat.

Since this is PBS, there aren't any commercials (yay!), and so it really felt like there was all the time in the world to tell the stories. Not like 'WDYTYA' where everything needs to be condensed and stuffed between the commercials. There also wasn't any of the fakey-fakey 'let's go to this exotic location just to open a book'stuff. Here, it's a long conversation at a table in a very nice outdoor setting,'We've done the research and collected copies of the documents, which are here in this book we made especially for you. Let's go through them together while I explain what we were able to find.'

I thought me not even knowing my great-grandparents' names (before I started digging) was bad (my stepfather's family can be traced back at least to Gettysburg if not further), but Mayor Booker and his family had no idea where the Booker name had even come from, and this show was able to tell him.

#5

queasy

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Posted Mar 26, 2012 @ 1:33 PM

Oh, mercy. Congressman Lewis' history about his g-g-grandfather registering to vote had me in tears, then Booker's dad being so affected got me going again, then Branford. Basically I was choked up the whole time.

Gates was very engaging to me as a viewer and came off as very caring and empathetic to the celebrities. Super host for this.

Edited by queasy, Mar 26, 2012 @ 5:18 PM.


#6

MulletorHater

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Posted Mar 26, 2012 @ 1:45 PM

I thoroughly enjoyed this show and remember seeing Professor Gates' previous specials on this subject. I appreciate the PBS documentary-like format, with no commercial interruptions, and the fact that Professor Gates takes his time with each subject.

First of all, I like that Branford Marsalis and Harry Connick, Jr. are friends, and my heart is always in my throat waiting for the reveal that's on the next page. I also enjoyed the segment in the barbershop and how Professor Gates was able to shatter some centuries' old myths. I can't tell you how many times I've heard, "We got Indian in my family" from different people when I was growing up. Just goes to show that we are all part of the same human family.

#7

Aurora Borealis

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Posted Mar 26, 2012 @ 2:28 PM

I can't tell you how many times I've heard, "We got Indian in my family" from different people when I was growing up.


That's one thing I've been lucky NOT to hear - I'm first generation American on my father's side and second-generation on my mother's. So, when I get told that I'm partially responsible for slavery reparations, um, no, I'm actually NOT...

Just goes to show that we are all part of the same human family.


Can't remember the name of the show at the moment, but I'm pretty sure it was on PBS. It was a documentary where a group of random people (the only criteria was to include as many different ethnicities as possible) were given the most detailed DNA tests currently available. When you got down to really minute details, everyone in the group (and, by extension, all of us) basically hail from the the same region. There was a huge map of the world on the floor and it was cool watching people start as individuals in different places at the beginning and then slowly move closer together with each level of analysis until they were all in one group by the end, smack dab in the middle of...the Middle East. Kinda throws a wrench into that tired, old, ignorant 'anyone-from-the-Middle-East-is-a-terrorist' meme, doesn't it? (Thank God.)

#8

MulletorHater

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Posted Mar 26, 2012 @ 3:39 PM

I'm first generation American on my father's side and second-generation on my mother's. So, when I get told that I'm partially responsible for slavery reparations, um, no, I'm actually NOT...


I remember Harry Connick, Jr.'s discomfort about his ancestor and commenting on how guilty he felt. I appreciated that Professor Gates quickly made it clear that Mr. Connick was not responsible for the actions of his ancestor. The historian (can't remember his name) and Professor Gates also demonstrated that there were myriads reasons that some men fought for the Confederacy, including the immediate need to feed their families.

I also appreciated learning more about the history of New Orleans and how it shaped the city's present.


Can't remember the name of the show at the moment, but I'm pretty sure it was on PBS. It was a documentary where a group of random people (the only criteria was to include as many different ethnicities as possible) were given the most detailed DNA tests currently available. When you got down to really minute details, everyone in the group (and, by extension, all of us) basically hail from the the same region. There was a huge map of the world on the floor and it was cool watching people start as individuals in different places at the beginning and then slowly move closer together with each level of analysis until they were all in one group by the end, smack dab in the middle of...the Middle East. Kinda throws a wrench into that tired, old, ignorant 'anyone-from-the-Middle-East-is-a-terrorist' meme, doesn't it? (Thank God.)


It sounds like a really interesting documentary and I'm so sorry I missed it.

#9

ChicagoCita

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Posted Mar 26, 2012 @ 4:11 PM

I really like this show so far, just as I enjoyed the previous HLG genealogy shows. I always find them intriguing, but I found the Cory Booker segment to be just awesome. To see how vulnerable and touched he and his family are at finding out their ancestry -- I just got verklempt watching. I like WDYTYA just fine, but this is a treat.

#10

Aurora Borealis

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Posted Mar 26, 2012 @ 10:00 PM

I also enjoyed the segment in the barbershop and how Professor Gates was able to shatter some centuries' old myths.


Paraphrasing here...
Prof. Gates (to one of the African-American men): The highest percentage of your ancestry is European. (Hands over the DNA report.)
Dark-Skinned Test Subject: I'm putting this in my wallet - next time I get stopped for Driving While Black, I'll pull this out and tell the officer, 'But I'm actually White and I have the test results to prove it!'

Me: Almost falling off the couch while laughing hysterically & needing to rewind the DVR 10 minutes later to catch up....

And the slave owner buying land for two of his ex-slaves rather than for his own children because his children are already equipped to function in this society and able to do so, while his ex-slaves are not...DAMN. I always thought 'Gone With The Wind' had to be too good to be true, but this kind of proof is mind-blowing.

#11

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Posted Mar 26, 2012 @ 10:31 PM

I only saw the Booker/Lewis segment, but I was very touched by it--Lewis' family story, how his great-great grandparents got married as soon as they could legally, and his GGgrandfather registered to vote, had me in tears. I also found myself contemplating how Cory Booker's maternal great grandmother found herself pregnant by a 46 year old white man in Jim Crow south...

#12

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Posted Mar 27, 2012 @ 9:13 AM

I think the demonstration of all the people in a field moving about according to their genetic makeup might have been part of either the Journey of Man or Human Family Tree from National Geographic. Both have aired on PBS, but you can also get the videos (and the DVD of Journey of Man comes with the DNA test through Nat Geo).

Watched Marsalis/Connick last night and am saving the other one for this weekend. I really appreciate the slower pacing and academic nature of Gates' shows. Plus he is naturally funny and draws humor out of his guests in a very natural, conversational and enjoyable way.

I also like that he draws "civilians" into the show, at least that first one.

#13

attica finch

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Posted Mar 27, 2012 @ 9:46 AM

I also found myself contemplating how Cory Booker's maternal great grandmother found herself pregnant by a 46 year old white man in Jim Crow south...

Yeah, me too. Maybe it was a little romance, maybe it was a little som'm som'm, maybe it...wasn't.

I loved watching the two men's faces as the information sunk in. Booker in particular. There were easily 10 distinct emotions passing over his countenance in that one moment. It was great to bring the white relatives into the proceedings. Nice to see them all kind of giddy about it: Yay! New cousins!

Where was that Civil Rights memorial that Booker visited with Lewis? I was distracted by something shiny and missed it. It looked beautiful and well worth seeing in person.

#14

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Posted Mar 27, 2012 @ 10:29 AM

Aurora - Here is a the first part of that documentary, The Human Tree, the documentary which you mentioned above:
http://www.youtube.c...h?v=m7qtzGtzTo4

I enjoy this show and Professor Gates' other specials. It really is a contrast to WDTYA. I also think Harry Connick Jr. is a cutie.

#15

maraleia

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Posted Mar 27, 2012 @ 10:51 AM

attica finch- The Civil Rights Memorial they visited was the Dr. King Memorial in Atlanta. I went once and it's awesome!!!

#16

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Posted Mar 28, 2012 @ 1:06 AM

Watched the two episodes that are available on the PBS site today, and enjoyed them. It gets much more into history. I like the amount of effort spent on DNA tests as well. The various reactions when they learn their "percentages" are interesting.

Parts of the stories were so moving. Talk about an illustration of the wonders of DNA in genealogy - they found the man a whole new branch of his family. It was very nice that everybody was glad about that.

#17

ElectricBoogalo

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Posted Apr 1, 2012 @ 5:29 AM

I watched the first episode with Harry Connick Jr. and Branford Marsalis and I liked it better than Who Do You Think You Are, which has too many different time wasting locations. Finding Your Roots doesn't bother messing around with that, which I like - much more efficient, much more content. I loved the friendship between Harry and Branford. Seeing their stories come together made the episode that much more interesting. I look forward to more episodes!

#18

ChicagoCita

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Posted Apr 1, 2012 @ 8:55 PM

Just saw the Geoffrey Canada/Barbara Walters episode.

I was so disappointed that the two Canaday descendants wouldn't spit up their DNA! I wonder if perhaps they will now that they've seen the show. Or maybe some other descendants will step forward? With that lady who was doing the family tree coming up with a huge number of descendants (I can't remember how many right now), surely there's got to be one who's willing?

The story of his father not even recognizing him broke my heart.

If I were Barbara Walters, I would get my money back from that previous researcher who did the family tree! Also, I had no idea she was brought up with a famous father and in the lap of luxury. How fleeting is fame.... at least in her father's case. I only really know her as the batty sex-obsessed woman on The View, so it was fascinating to hear about her father's time in the limelight.

#19

yian

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Posted Apr 2, 2012 @ 2:57 AM

thank you for introducing me to this series. Very well done.

#20

ScrubMonkey

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Posted Apr 2, 2012 @ 3:06 AM

If I were Barbara Walters, I would get my money back from that previous researcher who did the family tree!


I've been disappointed on that front too. I thought all professional genealogists could pull any rabbit out of a hat. I hired one for a brick wall in my tree and not only did he charge a lot and find nothing, he concluded the man never lived in the county we know (it's in too recent memory) he lived half his adult life in, died and is buried in. I had even given this guy land records and an obituary, there's no doubt there at all. Too many descendants still living who know. So, they're not all they are cracked up to be unfortunately. One thing this series does well is bring things to life. Pulling in the experts who really are experts, who can tell us about cultural norms of the day for a group of people, such as the "pay someone and get a good name, be stingy and be named weasel for all time" is really fascinating to me. Babs herself seemed fairly bored/jaded except when given her father's birth certificate.

I never heard of Geoffrey Canada before, and I liked him so much. It irked me that someone could help him know his roots but wouldn't donate a few skin cells to that cause. Maybe they weren't sure where it was going with the "your ancestor raped my ancestor" possibilities. (Especially, sorry, with Gates at the helm. He definitely misses no opportunity to talk about that.) I know I'd be proud to be related to Canada, he just seems like such a good person and what he's done for kids is heroic.

I confess we rolled our eyes at times because Gates goes so far out of his way to insert his agenda into every.single.freaking.episode. YMMV.

#21

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Posted Apr 2, 2012 @ 8:12 AM

I'm first generation American on my father's side and second-generation on my mother's. So, when I get told that I'm partially responsible for slavery reparations, um, no, I'm actually NOT...


History is not so cut and dried. Regardless of when our own relatives immigrated, living in the United States means we live in an economy which was built, partially, on slave labor. Economists estimate that slaves contributed about $20 trillion in labor to the United States. That contribution helped create the country we all live in today. Without it the US would be a very different place than it is right now. Anyone who benefits from living in the US is benefiting, in part, from slavery. It's not pretty, but it's true.

However, I will stop now lest I get off-topic!

#22

attica finch

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Posted Apr 2, 2012 @ 9:17 AM

He definitely misses no opportunity to talk about that.

I think his doing so is valuable. Not only because ignoring it serves no purpose, but when we find an instance where the procreation was loving and consensual, the story seems so much sweeter.

#23

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Posted Apr 2, 2012 @ 10:23 AM

A lot of people's family history is actually well to put it mild murky. Affairs, secret adoptions and babies given away or stolen (such as what the Catholic Church did for decades up to the 1990s in Spain and very possibly many other countries possibly for centuries http://www.bbc.co.uk...gazine-15335899,) rapes etc means you cannot tell where everyone actually came from like the family says.

#24

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Posted Apr 2, 2012 @ 12:24 PM

Maybe they weren't sure where it was going with the "your ancestor raped my ancestor" possibilities. (Especially, sorry, with Gates at the helm. He definitely misses no opportunity to talk about that.)


I don't see why he should have ignored it. "Growing" slaves was very real and it doesn't serve anyone to pretend it didn't happen or ignore the fact that it is a part of Canada's family history. There is a lot of ugliness in American history and this is just one aspect of it. I mean, the simple fact that most African Americans have some percentage of European blood in them can't be explained every time by a loving relationship..

I was bored by Barbara Walter's segment mainly because she didn't seem to care or really want to be there. Everyone else was so enthusiastic that I could almost feel their joy as they discovered new things about their family history.

#25

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Posted Apr 2, 2012 @ 12:52 PM

Maybe they weren't sure where it was going with the "your ancestor raped my ancestor" possibilities. (Especially, sorry, with Gates at the helm. He definitely misses no opportunity to talk about that.)


They might have wondered about motive. As in, "Would someone who discovered they were descended from my great-grandfather want a portion of his estate?" Who knows? Would they need a line of males to do the DNA test (that whole Y chromosome thing)? If not, couldn't the woman who was doing all that research give a sample?

I, too, was bored by the Barbara Walters segment, as was she apparently.

#26

attica finch

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Posted Apr 2, 2012 @ 12:57 PM

I thought the guy who went to the cemetery with Skip was interesting; I'd sure like to see more of his work. That whole 'clues on the back of the headstone' thing was (to me) wholly unexpected and big, big fun.

#27

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Posted Apr 2, 2012 @ 6:55 PM

I don't have much to add about this episode.

Just want to say though, I was startled by the coming attractions with Kevin Bacon next week. The hell? That was some weird, weird hair.
I do think that Kevin and Kyra's episode will be entertaining.

While perusing his imdb page looking for what project he might be working on that would cause that "look", I read there that she and Bacon find out on the show that they are 10th cousins, once removed.

#28

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Posted Apr 2, 2012 @ 7:26 PM

I kind of did a head-jerk backward at Kevin's hair, too. Maybe he's filming a role as a civil war soldier or something? Their episode should be interesting. I've heard about the Sedgwick family a bit, before, because of Edie. Aren't the Sedgwicks in The 400 or something like that? Blue-blooded. Kevin has that old New England look too.

It's a very sensitive topic of course, but at times I think the show should be retitled since it focuses so heavily on one aspect of American history. It's horrific but the entire world has slavery in its past - every single culture in the world has incorporated slave labor at some point. I guess I feel like at times, Gates is talking down to his audience. Have we never heard of it before? Do we need the basic facts every episode? It is mentioned in every single story - even Barbara's, about the names. He talks about his own history too much, too, for my liking - the show should be about the stories of the guests whose family history is being done. Just my reaction, there. I like when hosts and experts stay out of the way and don't editorialize. That said, the actual research on this show is tight.

I felt bad for Connick when he was trying to find other reasons why his ancestor might've enlisted - like money. Seemed like he was reaching for some type of validation - and didn't get it.

#29

MaryDell

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Posted Apr 3, 2012 @ 7:30 AM

...at times I think the show should be retitled since it focuses so heavily on one aspect of American history. It's horrific but the entire world has slavery in its past - every single culture in the world has incorporated slave labor at some point.


In all fairness, though, in the United States it is quite possible and not too rare to meet people whose own great-grandparents were born into slavery. I guess what I'm trying to say is, that while it's true that slavery is common historically, in the United States slavery is closer to us in time. YMMV.

#30

bellN

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Posted Apr 3, 2012 @ 7:37 AM

Gates is talking down to his audience.

The format of the show, with someone else doing all the research, and the subject sitting at a table turning pages of a scrapbook when Gates says so, kind of sets Gates up to look like the senior lecturer helping a student with his or her homework. Obviously, neither the celebrity or Gates does the real grunt work of all the research or digging through mountains of papers.

It irked me that someone could help him know his roots but wouldn't donate a few skin cells to that cause. Maybe they weren't sure where it was going with the "your ancestor raped my ancestor" possibilities. (Especially, sorry, with Gates at the helm.

It was a shame for Canaday, but completely understandable, and despite how it was presented on the show, the people they asked to donate DNA have every right to refuse, whatever their reasons. Either they weren't willing to participate in "help us prove your ancestor was a rapist and put it national TV" or they simply didn't want to have their DNA tested and stored in some database somewhere. There is a lot of discussion around how DNA profiling might be used/misused in the future.
Since this show is so often compared to Who do you think you are? I always feel like calling it Do you know who I am?