Genealogy program returns to TV; seminar in Frankfort Aug. 3

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I must admit it – I am hooked on “Who Do You Think You Are,” and I’m thrilled that it’s back on television. NBC dropped it last year, but The Learning Channel has taken it over. (That totally makes up for the fact that TLC is also responsible for “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.”)

Thanks to the Internet, I’m watching last night’s premiere episode on my computer as I write this column. The star of the show is Kelly Clarkson, a singer who was the first winner of “American Idol.”

Turns out her great-great-great-grandfather, Isaiah Rose, was from Ohio and fought in an Ohio unit during the Civil War. I couldn’t help but giggle, though, when she said that she hoped he fought for the Union and not the Confederacy. I mean, I’m sure there were Ohioans who went to fight for the South, but I’m pretty sure there were no Ohio Confederate units. If I’m wrong, don’t hesitate to correct me.

Though I think the narratives are great and informative, “WDYTYA” makes the work of genealogy research look so easy.

As each celebrity travels the country ... and sometimes the world ... to get to locations where their ancestors lived and died, they visit archives and historical societies where all the records they need magically appear.

If only.

What they don’t show is the months of research genealogists and historians put in behind the scenes to find information on the celebrity’s most interesting ancestors.

Anyone who has even dabbled in family history research knows the endless hours of work that goes into even just one person. I envy the researchers hired to help with the show, because that must be one sweet gig.

Show update: OK. Now she’s found out that her third great-grandfather was the sheriff of Washington County, Ohio, in the mid-1880s. ... “Oh my God, he was a sheriff? Like ‘Tombstone’?”

We obviously don’t teach enough history to our younger generations.

(Oh, dear. She just asked, “What is temperance?” Please. Shoot me now.)

OK, anyway, it IS a great show, even if it seems like an hour-long commercial for Ancestry.com. I highly recommend it. Kudos to Lisa Kudrow for coming up with the idea and producing it – and finding a way to get it back on the air.

KGS seminar in Frankfort

In a past column, I recommended attending conferences whenever you can, if you want to learn new and more efficient ways to research your family and manage the piles of information you have.

Just such an opportunity is coming up soon. On Aug. 3, J. Mark Lowe, a certified genealogist specializing in Kentucky and Tennessee research, will be leading the Kentucky Genealogical Society’s annual seminar at the Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History, 100 W. Broadway St., Frankfort. Cost is $50 for members, $60 for non-members.

Lowe has been a researcher for more than 40 years and has appeared on an episode of “Who Do You Think You Are,” helping singer Lionel Ritchie find his roots, and has appeared on the Biography Channel’s “uneXplained.”

For more information on Lowe, visit his website at KYTN.weebly.com.

He will lead four sessions:

In the first session, “Ready, Set, Plan,” he will discuss a simple technique for splitting difficult research problems into manageable pieces.

I’m looking forward to the second session, “Finding Your Landless Ancestors.” He will show how to track people who didn’t own property. One of my clients has family that not only never owned property, from what I can tell, but also were illiterate. I’ve had a very difficult time trying to find much information on them, and I’m hoping that this session will give me some ideas.

The third session, “Out on a Limb,” will discuss reviewing your research findings and evaluating your sources to find ways around those frustrating brick walls.

Finally, the fourth session is “Coffins, Urns and Zip-Lock Bags,” which will discuss what burial customs and cemetery stories can tell us about our ancestors and our culture.

I signed up for this months go, and I’m really looking forward to hearing Lowe speak. I heard him in January, when I attended the weeklong Salt Lake Institute for Genealogy. That night, he talked about Kentucky bourbon and how the area’s limestone water sources drew people to settle here and start distilling that liquid gold the Bluegrass state is known for. It was very enlightening, as we think of people moving to new locations for land or to work in factories. I never really thought of people moving here because it was a great place to make hooch.

To register for the program, visit Kentucky GenealogicalSociety.org. Mark your calendar for this great opportunity, and I’ll see you in Frankfort this weekend.


Phyllis McLaughlin is a member of the Association for Professional Genealogists. Call (502) 514-3715 or e-mail twistedrootsgenealogy@gmail.com.