Episode 2 of this season, Season 6, featured the family history of musician Josh Groban. (God, my mother loves him.) With the help of several genealogists, Josh tracked down his German ancestry. He learns that his 8th great-grandfather, Johann Zimmermann, was not only a religious leader, but also a music teacher & astronomer. In fact, he was such a well known astronomer in his time that Issac Newton referred to him in his own writings. Impressive!
But Josh's ancestor's astronomical sighting of Haley's Comet in 1682 lead him to predict cataclysmic doom which put him at odds with the church and thus forced him to head to the New World. Sadly, he never reached these new shores because he dies at sea. Sort of an anticlimactic ending for him.
What I loved most about this episode was Josh's reaction to learning of his ancestor's musical ability. I find that people love to credit their talents to genetics but the more and more I research family histories, the more inclined I am to believe that environment dictates talent so much more than genetics.
On her journey, actress Angie Harmon uncovered the life story of her 5th great grandfather, Michael Harman, who came America as indentured servant in the 1770s and went on to fight in the American Revolution. That means that, like myself, Angie could join the Daughters of the American Revolution. I hope that she does because Angie was so enamored by this man. In fact, she was so in love with him that it felt that some significant part of his story was left out. I mean I am sure tons get edited out of these episodes, and I do understand what it is like to deeply connect with an ancestor, but she was just SO in love with Great-Great-Great-Great-Great Grandpa Michael Harman, it seemed a little - - much. That being said though, it kind of was my favorite aspect of this episode. You really can build significant bonds with your ancestors even though you have never met them, never will, probably will never even get to see a picture of them. It's a magical thing this genealogy research; the way it connects you to history and people.
Episode 4 featured one of my favorite actors, Sean Hayes. He played Jack on Will and Grace, the ever flamboyant gay neighbor. Sean's research lead him through a history of estrangement between his forefathers and their sons. Well, technically, those sons were also Sean's forefathers, hmm, but again, I digress. This is a type of family story is one that I am quite familiar with researching.
Estranged from his own father, Sean traveled to Chicago to learn the sad details of his paternal grandfather’s life. Not only did his grandfather die very young, at the age of 40, he also suffered an obvious decline into poverty. He didn't "die in the gutter" though, as Sean had been told but he was living in a flop house and died destitute.
Sean then follows the Hayes ancestral line back to Ireland, where court records show deep roots of estrangement and many relatives' brushes with the law. Through his research Sean comes to more deeply understanding his own broken relationship with his father. What I truly admire and appreciate is Sean's ability to not place blame.
Next week's episode features actor/director Tony Goldwyn. Tony is the grandson of media mogul Samuel Goldwyn which lends this episode to potential be quite dramatic.