Chris O’Donnell on “Who Do You Think You Are?”: St. Louis and War of 1812 Roots

By Diane Haddad

If you watched “Who Do You Think You Are?” with Chris O’Donnell this week, you learned about his ancestor Michael McEnnis’ reminiscences of the cholera epidemic at the Missouri Historical Society research library in St. Louis. Wouldn’t finding such a writing be a dream come true?

On a recent visit to our local Cincinnati History Library and Archives, we saw how much unpublished material local historical societies have. Much of it isn’t yet in online catalogs. The historical society for your ancestor’s hometown is definitely worth a visit.

If you have ancestors in St. Louis like Chris O’Donnell does, Archivist Dennis Northcott, who shared McEnnis’ writings with O’Donnell on the show, recommends searching the Missouri Historical Society’s Genealogy and Local History Index. The index lets you search names and other details from a variety of the library’s collections.

You also can email Northcott a request to receive the monthly Genealogy and House History News email newsletter (put “subscribe” in the subject line and your name in the body of the email message).

Northcott told me that only brief excerpts made it on air (it’s normal for TV shows to take a lot of footage and edit it down to the slivers that appear onscreen), but you can read the entire cholera reminiscence on the library’s website.

Two additional reminiscences of Michael McEnnis include:

O’Donnell also explored his War of 1812 roots (I haven’t seen that part of the show yet), a war that marked its bicentennial last year. To mark the occasion, we published a genealogy guide to researching War of 1812 ancestors—it’s available as a download in Family Tree Shop.