Saturday, March 13, 2010

Emmitt Smith traces his roots into the days of American slavery

On the U.S. version of the BBC TV show Who do you think you are?, episode one featured American football star Emmitt Smith reaching back to the past and breaching a few genealogical brick walls.

Being African American with several generations born in the U.S.A., Smith's research problems started with the fact that the records of vital events (births, deaths, marriages) for slaves were not kept before Emancipation.

That dry sentence hides the more emotional fact: slaves were property, not people.  They had no rights.

Smith came to the personal realization of how much things have changed for African Americans when he was given an old book of records to look at.  On the cover, the title included the word "Colored".  Even the records were segregated in the American South for a time.

I don't know anything about Emmitt Smith other than what I saw of him on this show, but his compassion for his enslaved ancestors was genuine. That's common in family history research.  Once you know your ancestors' names, you start to fill in the blanks, and they quickly become real people, not just names and dates on the page.

I'm looking forward to next week's show.

Here's a link to a little synopsis of the Emmitt Smith episode, from the BBC's website.

These books are all about tracing African American ancestry.  I haven't read them so can't tell you which would be the best.  Perhaps I'll get a chance later.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Who do you think you are? TV show about family history starts on NBC

I was in an airplane on Tuesday and that's how I came to be watching Oprah.

And, good thing, because that's how I found out the BBC show Who do you think you are?, which has had a British version and a Canadian one already, is now getting an American version too.

I'll be watching tonight and thinking of all the stories behind the names we see every day and never think about: names of streets, schools, hospitals; names on monuments and plaques;  names in phone books and company directories; it never ends. is all over this.  I've been using Ancestry for several years.  My Christmas present to myself is the deluxe annual membership.

I know that watching Who do you think you are? is just going to make me want to do more research.