Tonight’s Genealogy Roadshow Episode: Detroit

Genealogy Roadshow Debuts on PBS

Don’t forget to tune into tonight’s episode of Genealogy Roadshow on PBS! Set in Detroit, Michigan, the show features genealogists Kenyatta Berry and Josh Taylor as they help local families discover their roots.

As described on the Genealogy Roadshow, “While Detroit is known mainly for two things — cars and Motown — there is much more to the city, which boasts one of the most diverse populations in the country. After its settlement by French-Canadians, Detroit attracted a large number of Europeans and immigrants of Middle Eastern descent, making it now home to the largest Arab-American community in the country. As well, hundreds of thousands of African-Americans moved to Detroit from the rural southern U.S. as part of The Great Migration of the 20th century. Detroit was the first place in the country to have a stretch of concrete highway and a four-way, three-color traffic light. It supplied 75 percent of the liquor during the Prohibition era and was the birthplace of the ice cream soda.”

Here is a preview clip from tonight’s episode:

©2013, copyright Thomas MacEntee

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Genealogy Roadshow: Review of the Nashville Episode

Genealogy Roadshow Debuts on PBS

The first episode of the US-version of Genealogy Roadshow, set at the Belmont Mansion in Nashville, Tennessee, was broadcast last night on most PBS stations. If you did not have a chance to see the episode, you may want to watch it in its entirely below before you read my review.

Genealogy Roadshow Offers a Fast-Paced, Quick Touch Format

What a change from the hour-long, slow paced, celebrity-focused format of Who Do You Think You Are?! I love the idea of “approachable” genealogy where participants are basically at group meeting similar to a genealogy conference or a genealogy society meeting and experts present research results to them.

Genealogy Roadshow Offers a Fast-Paced, Quick Touch Format

What a change from the hour-long, slow paced, celebrity-focused format of Who Do You Think You Are?! I love the idea of “approachable” genealogy where participants are basically at group meeting similar to a genealogy conference or a genealogy society meeting and they have experts present research results to them. These are real people with real family stories; proof that there is no story too small in family history.

The format is great and should be retained; there could be fewer segments and more time could be spent on each segment. Also, I’d love to see an “end cap” letting viewers know how they can learn more about their own family history. Genealogy is a lifelong journey, as many of us who are passionate about it know. It is not easy doing the research, but it is filled with rewards too numerous to mention. We shouldn’t mislead future consumers about the process and even how experts or professionals research and present results. At times it looked like you could just “walk up” to “The Genealogy Store” and place your family’s research in a basket, check out and then get back in the car on go on your way.

Fine Tuning Needed

Here are a few annoyances and things that just plain bugged me:

  • The pace was too fast and there were too many segments. Some of the “setups” lost even someone like me and I didn’t see how the dots were connected.
  • It wasn’t clear how the participants came to be on the show. One would think that people just walked up to the Belmont Mansion and instantly had their research done for them. I think there should be an explanation upfront at each episode as to the “process.” [Perhaps I missed this as I was busy on Twitter during parts of the show.]
  • The show needs to go more in-depth and focus on education. An example: the segment where Kenyatta Berry presents the DNA results to a participant. I’m sure the original segment was longer and perhaps the end result was heavily edited, but I didn’t see the point of this at all. There was a golden opportunity to educate the viewers on the role of DNA testing in genealogical research and how it is being used, especially for African-American research. An opportunity missed.
  • Ugh. The “recap” with host Emmett Miller after some segments. I kept thinking “This is just like The People’s Court.” I didn’t see the point of it and after the first few times it just detracted from the focus of the show. I understand the need for the participants to have their feelings and thoughts processed, but there have to be better ways to do this.

I try not to be too critical and I try to make sure I’ve removed the “genealogy professional” glasses when I watch shows like WDYTYA and Genealogy Roadshow. I just think that tightening things up a bit could make for a more accurate expectation of newcomers to genealogy and make for a better show.

Overall Impression of Genealogy Roadshow

I liked Genealogy Roadshow and made sure that I watched the episode from a “non-genealogist” perspective as much as possible.  I realize that all the episodes – a total of four – are already “in the can,” but if PBS were to order up a second season, there are definitely improvements to be made.

Having genealogy and family history shown on television and other media outlets is a win for those in both the genealogy community and who pursue genealogy as a profession. Genealogy Roadshow is just another “welcome mat” that brings people in the door so they can decide if they want to research their own roots. PBS and the producers have put forth a good product that serves that purpose and I look forward to next week’s episode in Detroit!

©2013, copyright Thomas MacEntee

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