‘Who Do You Think You Are?” Episode One Recap

‘Who Do You Think You Are?” Episode One Recap

We’ll be doing quick recaps of every “Who Do You Think You Are?” episode right here. So if you haven’t yet watched the Sarah Jessica Parker episode and you don’t want to know, stop reading this second.Here are some of my thoughts (and Facebook posts) while I watched:...

We’ll be doing quick recaps of every “Who Do You Think You Are?” episode right here. So if you haven’t yet watched the Sarah Jessica Parker episode and you don’t want to know, stop reading this second.

Here are some of my thoughts (and Facebook posts) while I watched:

Sarah Jessica Parker (SJP) and her brother are joking about being related to a Mayflower passenger. I smell foreshadowing.

SJP’s father is Eastern-European Jewish, but she has lots of questions about her mother’s side. Her mother born and raised in Cincinnati’s German Community (just like my mom’s dad). SJP visits her mom and learns her great-grandmother’s last name was Hodge.

SJP goes to Cincinnati’s Clifton Public Library, about 10 minutes from where I am right now, meeting with genealogist Natalie Cottrill. (Read more about her visit in this Cincinnati Enquirer article.)

SJP’s great-grandfather John Hodge is reported dead in 1849 in a newspaper article, but appears in the census in California the next year.

First Ancestry.com commercial.

Now she’s at the Museum Center, formerly Cincinnati’s Union Terminal train station (a great place to visit if you’re ever in town), meeting with UCLA history professor Stephen Aron.

Hodge invested $200 in a gold-prospecting company. He left for California, leaving his wife (whom he may or may not have known was pregnant). It’s neat to see SJP’s genuine excitement and curiosity. Now off to California.

I’m concerned viewers will think you actually have to visit every place your ancestors lived in order to research. That might make it even more fun and exciting, but it’s definitely not required!

John Hodge did die after he arrived in California. Sad.

SJP says it’s “extraordinary” to think your ancestor was part of such a profound event in history. That’s what I love about genealogy.

Now Josh Taylor from the New England Historic Genealogical Society is telling her about John Hodge’s family. 1849 to 1635 in 15 seconds flat.

Now we’re on to the Massachusetts Historical Society. (You can read more about the MHS visit here.)

SJP is looking at an online index and sees the word “warrant” by her ancestor’s last name. Cut to commercial!

I love the little review after every commercial break.

SJP’s ancestor Esther Elwell was arrested for performing witchcraft against her neighbor, Mary Fitch, causing Fitch to die. SJP is so surprised, she’s stammering.

Another commercial break!

Whew! SJP’s relative was arrested near the end of the trials, and ended up never having to go to court. She lived to age 82.

I feel like there should be a disclosure telling us how many hours and how many people all this research took. But, I really enjoyed watching someone else enjoy the process of genealogy. It was fun watching along with my Facebook genealogy friends. I think the show told a great story, introduced us to (or reacquainted us with) historical events, and got across how meaningful family history research can be.

Update: For more details on how the research into SJP’s ancestry was done, see our March 8 post.

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  1. I think it was mentioned that Elwell is SJP’s 10 great-grandmother. She has over 2000 more great-grandparents at that many generations removed. That’s over 2000 more discoveries to be made. This WDYTYA episode only followed one branch leading to Elwell. Imagine the possibilities . . .

  2. Thanks for the recap, as I am now visiting in Melbourne, Australia, where the new show is not being shown. 🙁

    Keep up the recaps for the other episodes. Here’s hoping the US episodes will be online during/after the series.

    I’ve just watched online the four Faces of America episodes, so I’m not feeling too culturally deprived at the moment.

    Best wishes

  3. Why do we need to trace the ancestors of movie stars and sports people. I get much more excited when an ordinaary person finds something spectacular in their ancestry. What happens when they don’t find anything &quot;worthy&quot;? Do they drop them from the show? I found the show more interesting than the Gates one on PBS. I liked the search part. Gates (or at least his staff) did all the work and then just dropped the results in the &quot;stars&quot; laps. Not any fun in that kind of genealogy research.

  4. Great show! Fun to see SJP reaction when she found something new. I still get very excited when I have that &quot;Yahoo&quot; moment. Wish that I could just jump on a plane to follow my ancesters around the country. While it’s fun to see a celeb, how they fallow a one of us around sometime.

  5. I won’t watch subsequent shows as long as they’re profiling big name stars and sports figures. We need to stop being voyeurs of Hollywood and the NFL and concentrate on our own family’s genealogy. I thought the whole show was overly dramatic and scripted. Just another shallow &quot;reality&quot; show that isn’t real!