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A little bit ago, editorial assistant (and soon-to-be
frequent blogger here) Jamie Royce and I participated in a media conference call
with “Who Do You Think You Are?” producer Lisa Kudrow and Season Two, Episode One
celebrity Vanessa Williams.
Each journalist on the call got to ask two or three questions. When our turn came,
we wanted to know whether Kudrow and Williams would have pursued genealogy to such
an extent themselves, had they not been on “WDYTYA?”
Williams, who learns on the show that her African-American ancestors served in the
Civil War and in the Tennessee legislature after Emancipation, is a bit of a history
buff and had actually already set up a family tree on Ancestry.com (a
partner in the series). She had the interest, she said, but not the necessary knowledge
or access to the information.
Kudrow’s dad was way into in genealogy, as
you might remember from last season’s “WDYTYA?,” and had spent a lot of time at
the FamilySearch Center in Los Angeles. He had a many names and dates, and Kudrow
was able to flesh out that information and get in touch with living relatives through
We also mentioned how hungry Family Tree Magazine readers are to see more of
what goes into the research—how researchers uncover the records, what archives they
visit, what the records look like—and asked whether this year we might see more of
that detail in the episodes or even on the “WDYTYA?”
Kudrow acknowledged your desire to know more of the nuts and bolts of the research.
Earlier in the call, she had noted how painful it is to have to cut video from each
episode due to the 42-minute running time. “There just isn’t time,” she lamented.
So you probably won’t see much more nuts-and-bolts research in the episodes, but we’re
hoping NBC will put more of that behind-the-scenes content on the website. Ancestry.com
posted research recaps to its blog after each Season One episode, so we’ll look
for more of those, as well.
Thomas MacEntee of Genea-bloggers also was on the call—see
the answers to his questions and other notes from the call here. Lisa Louise Cooke
of Genealogy Gems was there, too—keep
an eye on her blog for her take.
Kudrow talked about the value of personalizing history with stories like those featured
on the show. You might think history was just something that happened to strangers
a long time ago, but when you see how it affected your family, it has so much more
“I hope it’s a history lesson for people, and I hope it inspires them to ask questions,”
“WDYTYA?” premieres Friday, Feb. 4, at 8pm EST on NBC.