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The young woman I bought coffee from this morning (before heading to our booth at
the National Genealogical
Society conference in Cincinnati) was talking about last
night’s “Who Do You Think You Are?” and how she wants to check out the exhibit
hall today. Which is what we hope the show will do–be the spark that takes someone’s
interest in family history and turns it into action.
So, the show: Actor and comedian Jason Sudeikis researched his dad’s paternal line,
discovering a legacy of sons who grew up without their dads.
A death record told Sudeikis his dad’s dad, Stanley, died young, at age 32, from a
fall, and shared a residence in Chicago with an unknown woman who was the informant
on the record. A coroner’s investigation shed more light on the situation: The woman
was a cousin who testified that Stanley abused alcohol and slept in the park.
Court records showed Sudeikis his grandmother had filed for a legal separation from
her husband because he’d abandoned the family. He’d never met Sudeikis dad.
It turned out he was living what he knew. In census and marriage records, Sudeikis
found that Stanley’s father, Stanley Sr., had abandoned his first wife (Sudeikis’
great-grandmother) and married another woman in Connecticut. There was no record of
a divorce from the earlier marriage.
Stanley Sr.’s father died in Pennsylvania in a mining accident when his son was a
Not all family legacies are positive, but I like how this episode shows family history
can be rewarding even when you’re learning some sad truths. At the end of the episode,
Sudeikis honors his dad for breaking a cycle, and being a great father even though
he didn’t have a model to follow.