Cancelled Celebrity History Series Sinks New Roots On TLC

Tim McGraw and Elvis Presley’s ancestors came over on the same boat? So Tim discovers on “Who Do You Think You Are?” a series that takes celebrities on a journey into their family’s past.

Celebrities have spanned the globe in this inventive series looking for their origins. “Who Do You Think You Are?” is a show that is as addictive as it is informative, often emotional, and highly entertaining. Viewers get a ringside seat as celebs follow trails that become highways into sometimes murky family mysteries, and close-kept family secrets. But whatever they find out about their family’s past, the journey itself is magnificent. Originally a BBC series, the family history show aired its American version on NBC, but was later cancelled. Now it has jumped to cable on The Learning Channel and has premiered with Kelly Clarkson.

In past episodes, Tim McGraw learned that his ancestors migrated with the ancestors of Elvis Presley. “Maybe they jammed together,” he quipped.

Some of my personal favorites have been Rob Lowe, Emmitt Smith, Lionel Richie, Matthew Broderick, and Lisa Kudrow of “Friends”.

Though all of them have been wonderfully intriguing, those have stood out in my mind. Matthew Broderick, who starred in “Glory”, learned about his own personal history from the Civil War. His great-great-grandfather, a Union soldier, gave his life for his country. Broderick’s roots were particularly difficult to follow due to his ancestor being overlooked by census takers.

Rob Lowe learned that his ancestor fought with George Washington — on opposite sides. Lowe’s ancestor was a German Hession. Here is the early promo for Rob Lowe’s journey into his past.

Some of the episodes were almost too painful to watch. “Friends” star Lisa Kudrow broke down when she learned her great-grandmother was killed by the Nazi’s in the Holocaust in World War II. Both Emmitt Smith and Lionel Richie’s journeys began in Alabama and led them both on an emotional and heart-rending journey back into the era of slavery.

Tragedy marked the ancestors of Gwyneth Paltrow, one great-great-grandmother losing her parents at age 13; another who succumbed to depression after being discharged from a teacher’s college due to absenteeism. Paltrow followed record after record back until she found the reason for the absenteeism was caregiving for her invalid mother and brother, who died just months apart in 1897.

I have researched my own family history. I have taught workshops on family history. And began my newspaper career with a column on family history. It has been a lifelong and exciting quest. The story of our families, in some instances, can be inspiring, or tragic, or funny. And they are not just for celebrities. These stories are there for any of us who love the detective’s journey – the search for clues – the interviews with garrulous people, or close-mouthed secretive people. They’re all there, waiting for your journey.

For additional reading on the stars and how they put the records and clues together, here is a link to the Genealogy Insider by Diane Haddad.


12 thoughts on “Cancelled Celebrity History Series Sinks New Roots On TLC

  1. I’m suire this was an interesting show. The premise is a good one, but I’ve never watched it. I’m interested in genealogy and both sides of my family have been well researched. Frank’s, too, on his father’s side.

    • Hi,
      Been out of town for a couple of days. How great that both sides and Frank’s are well researched. And from the pictures you’ve shared there are plenty of those, too. I love the old pictures and stories. Not “just the facts”, though those get you from one generation to another. What are your countries of origin? I’m mainly Scots-Irish and German.

      • Speaking of old stories, I remember how my cousins and I – as well as most of the rest of the family – would say, “Ask Rella….she’ll know.” (My mom.) Now I’m getting emails from the next generation (or two !) asking ME questions about ancestors, incidents, etc. How did I get old enough for this ?????

        My nationalities are:
        My father was Welsh (his dad) and English (his mother)
        My mother was Scots (her dad) and English (her mother)

        My paternal grandmother (Blanch Adams) was descended from John Adams, which made her – and me – eligible to join the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution.) My half-sister in Ohio toyed with the idea of joining, went to one meeting of her local chapter, decided the women were all a bunch of snobs and never went back. Living in New England like I do, I’m sure there are lots of chapters around here, but I’ve never looked into it. However, I have photocopies of birth records all the way back to John Adams in case I ever change my mind. My father’s name was Hugh (very Welsh) and his middle name was Adams.

      • Awesome! Love the John Adams story. As for me, since I’ve been the family historian since 1976, I’ve always been asked questions even I ask them myself. I never have been a fan of DAR except that I admire their obsession with record-keeping. It’s an exclusive haughty club, even if you do happen to have the “correct” lineage.

        One of my lineages is “Owen/Owens” on both my mother and father’s side, and Owen is mostly Welsh. My great-great-grandfather was “Owen Owen” believe it or not. The Welch are supposed to be very musical. My dad’s family was very musical, which came from their mother’s side – Owen. Unfortunately, I did not inherit. My musicality came from dad’s father’s side, the McDaniel side. Of course, my overly poetic nature probably came from Ashley Bryan – my Irish ancestor.

        What member of your family did the Adams? Was it your grandmother, or a cooperative venture by several family members? You are really really blessed to have it.

      • “Haughty” and snobbish was exactly how my sister described the woman at the DAR meeting she attended. Neither she nor I have any use for people like that so she dropped the idea of joining.

        Oh yes, the Welsh do have a reputation for musicianship. My dad could play anything you blew into – reeds or valves – and mom could play anything that had a keyboard. I guess I come by music naturally via my genes. I was with my mother (who played piano and organ) the first time she played an accordion. A fellow showed her how to hold it, where the chord keys were, how to squeeze it and within a half hour she was playing “The Beer Barrel Polka”…by ear ! Dad played by ear, too, but unlike mom, he had never learned to read music. That gift escaped me. I have never been able to play by ear so I’m a slave to music. Actually, I’d rather be able to play by ear than read music if given the choice

        Speaking of how musical the Welsh are, take a look at these videos from the British competition show Britian’s Got Talent. The first time I saw the first one, tears were streaming down my face and I was sobbing. I had to watch it about five more times….right then and there.

        The semi-final…. (the blond judge is Welsh)

        And performing at Buckingham Palace as part of the concert celebrating Queen Elizabeth’s 60th year on the throne. Katherine Jenkins, who joins them, is a famous Welsh opera singer.

        To answer your genealogy question, the Adams research was done by my grandmother and her mother….well before the Internet was even a thought in anyone’s imagination.

      • Oh my gosh!!! Those voices. Those boys. Never ever heard them before. I loved the look on Simon’s face – all the judges and the audience. How inspiring and uplifting!! Beautiful. Mike was listening, too. Loved it. Also loved Katherine Jenkins. Such a pure clear voice that could soar right up there with the boys. Thank you so much for sharing those with us. Loved the 6oth year concert for Queen Elizabeth. I’m so glad they are bringing back traditional and people are responding to it.

        Your background sounds a lot like mine in the musical department. My grandmother, Icy Owen McDaniel could play guitar and piano, the youngest boy played piano, one boy was a one-man band, my dad played guitar and I think he could play a little banjo, but if he did it was before my time. They could play just about anything instrumental. I don’t know if they played by ear or music — I think both, but not sure. It’s amazing how your relative pick up something so quickly by ear. I seldom run into anyone who sings or plays anymore. I was beginning to think it was a dying art except for the few who try out on television.

      • WHEEE !! I KNEW you’d love Boys Aloud. I love that they’ve been given this opportunity. They sure clean up well, don’t they? So fresh-faced and enthusiatic. They’ve been traveling all over giving performances, held back only by their need to attend school. Given their backgrounds, they would probably never have gotten to see the world, or even London, without the opportunities this amazing director has given them. Yes, Simon was definitely impressed and that’s not easy. I loved the shots of the amazed audience and judges when the remaining 131 boys came onto the stage. I have threel CDs of Katherine Jenkins. She’s one of my favorite singers. She was on Dancing with the Stars a couple of years ago and got quite close to making the final.

        Yes, mom had a very good ear. You could hum a turne for her to play and she’d ask what key you wanted it in. It would be so much fun if I could play like that. Just think of how much fun parties and get-togethers could be.

        I’d love to be able to play the banjo…and electric guitar.

      • Yes, I was very impressed with that choir director. You could see his sincere dedication written all over him. And come to think of it, I remember an opera singer on dwts, but didn’t realize that was her. She’s gorgeous.

        I wish I had half the talent you have. I could sing a little at one time (nothing to get excited over), but allergies have robbed me of even that little bit. My brother Tim has won money in singing competitions. Our family favorite by him was “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain”. It’s country, so I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of it or not.

      • Yes, I think I’ve heard “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain.” Sounds familiar. I’ll look for someone singing it on YouTube.

        I guess people always want a talent they don’t have. I would LOVE to be able to write like you do.

        Here’s the web site for Only Boys Aloud. It has some interesting reading. I see they have a CD out now and it’s available at amazon. I think I’ll get it.

  2. Gosh, that’s a beautiful song and a lovely video. I don’t think I’ve ever heard the song before. I was thinking of Crystal Gayle’s “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue”…..which I like a lot.

    How sad to see this video introduced by Andy Gibb. There’s only one Gibb brother left now, Barry. The Bee Gees are my favorite group of all time.

    • Glad you enjoyed it. It’s a mood-inducer. Yes. We love Crystal Gayle. Particularly love “Don’t Make My Brown Eyes Blue”, and absolutely loved the BeeGees. Mike and I were talking the other day about Barry, the only one left. Sad. And the world lost a lot of talent.


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