Season 4 of Who Do You Think You Are? has not come and went. The second half of the season included episodes on celebrities Chris O'Donnell, Cindy Crawford, Trisha Yearwood, and Jim Parsons.
I loved how with every discovery Chris could see how significant family was to each of his forefathers. I too believe that family dynamics are inherited. By that I mean that it seems to me that one learns how to treat and interact with their relatives from the examples set before them. In my mother's line it seems that every generation suffers some sort of estrangement from one sibling or another. On my father's line it seems that every generation has taken in some distant family member or person in need for an extended period of time. Chris saw a pattern of men requesting to leave wars to return home and care for family.
And dude, family heirlooms in the Smithsonian?!?! Chris had some amazing discoveries.
Episode 6. I have a lot in common with Cindy Crawford!! First off, gorgeous!! (Hee, hee, hee.) It must be in the genes.
I too am supposedly descended from King Charlemagne. I came across that online somewhere but the source lacked documentation so I didn't believe it; but then again if Charlemagne lived 40 generations ago, and you have 2 parents, 4 grandparents, 8 great-grandparents, then you have about 1,099,511,627,776 40th great-grandparents - no joke, that's true, that is 2 to the 40th power. In other words, it is virtually impossible for anyone of European descent not to be descended from Charlemagne. But, can everyone document their ancestry back to Charlemagne like Cindy can? I think not. I wish I could solidly prove my connection to him. I want a scroll!
Additionally, like Cindy, I too know Chris Child of the New England Historic Genealogical Society of Boston. I am a member of NEHGS, the oldest genealogy society in the United States, which is how I know Chris. He's such a nice man and very good at the work he does. And guess what, Cindy? I knew him first! Nanner-nanner, Cousin Cindy.
Episode 7. I really loved this episode. Trisha Yearwood seems so really down-to-Earth.
She learned that one of her direct ancestors was orphaned young, committed the treacherous crime of steeling deer, and rather than be executed was sentence to be indentured in American. At one point she made a comments, "If I didn't know his history, if I had just heard a relative of your's broke into someone's private property and killed animals and stole them, I would think he's just a criminal; he's just a common criminal and has no character. But it's hard for me to say that though knowing his life; knowing what he's been through."
Upon hearing this I thought to myself, "I hope she sees other "common criminals" as having circumstances worthy of compassion."
I really do think genealogy teaches people compassion. I think when one learns that they are descended from thieves, beggars, slave-owners, indigents, struggling people, whatever the case maybe, they tend to cast a softer light on those around them.
Another aspect of Trisha's experience that I could relate to is that in the end she learned that she grew up in close proximity to where her first immigrant Winslut ancestor owned land back in the 1700s. I live no more than 10 minutes away from where one of my first immigrant ancestors settled in the 1600s.
Episode 8. Jim Parsons, like many novice family history researchers, was interested in getting "across the pond." That expression means that American is interested in finding their European roots. In Jim's case it was his connection to France. For most Americans their connection to France will connect them to New Orleans and/or Quebec, Canada. In Jim's case his French came by way of New Orleans. For me, my French connection came from Quebec. That is not to say I have not done a ton of Louisiana State research for friends; one in particular, Toni, has relatives from Iberville, LA just like Jim.
One thing I really loved about Jim during this process was that he constantly paused to do math; to figure out how old his ancestor would have been at the time the relative documents were created. Then he would compare the age to his own. I do the same thing. I look at family photos and think, "I am 5 years older than my grandmother was in this picture."
It was pretty cool to ultimately learn that his ancestors hobnobbed with royalty and political figures of their times such as King Louis XV, Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams. What I appreciated most though is that Parsons was just as enamored to learn the details of the lives of those ancestors of his that did not have great fame and that he saw the common quality of paternal love and support through many generations of fathers and sons in his family line.
I really do love this show. I am sad to see the season end and I really do hope that TLC keeps it going and brings it back for another season soon.
Now I am off to read Cousin Mary's posts about this TV series over at Threading Needles in a Haystack. I wonder if her take on these episodes are anything like mine; they must be, we're related, right? :)