Who Do You Think You Are?

I suppose that at some point it behoves the family history blogger to pass comment on the BBC series “Who Do You Think You Are?”. Don’t get me wrong, I find it very entertaining (even the American version); we all enjoy rooting around in the past, most of the subjects have a good story to tell, and there’s always the chance to see a famous person cry. But I wish it would do more.

Telling our ancestor’s stories is most of why we do this (it’s obviously the reason behind this blog), and every now and then we hit a block or notice a gap in the data, and it is for these occasions I believe WDYTYA could be a little more helpful sometimes. It seems like an opportunity missed in that by the end of the current UK series there will have been 100 shows and yet very few of them have offered much practical help to the amateur genealogist. Even if a particular programme or subject has sparked an idea or two, I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking “how did they get that?” when a subject is handed an obscure record to read, falteringly, on camera – ears pricked hoping to hear how one might access this hitherto unheard of archive, but the moment passes and we’re off on the next leg of our stage-managed journey without so much as a subtitle to help us. (I also wonder whether the professionals they use are sometimes ill-served. They hand over research that may have taken days and hours often without so much as a hint that they trawled through several dusty volumes before they eventually found this small clue but that’s by the by).

Of course, genealogy is big business and the BBC and the WDYTYA production company can point to the website and magazine, shrug and say ‘what more do you want?’ but seriously, we have the Red Button and iPlayer; could we not have WDYTYA Extra with content related to each episode? After all, the first series had a short segment at the end of each programme where Adrian Chiles and researcher Nick Barratt offered basic tips – there’s no reason this could not be re-adopted and expanded for WDYTYA Extra. It could work much like the supplementary content we sometimes see on nature programmes (“how we got that shot of copulating snow leopards” or “what it was like camped out on an arctic ice floe filming polar bears”) so the rest of the audience can go on enjoying Brian Blessed’s workhouse ancestors while we can get help finding our own. Everyone is happy.

What do you think?


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