FAMILY TIES

Tomei, Sheen, McEntire to find roots on ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’

Posted Jan. 14, 2012, at 6:19 p.m.
Marisa Tomei
Marisa Tomei

The popular television series “Who Do You Think You Are?” will return for its third season at 8 p.m. Fridays on NBC beginning Feb. 3.

Genealogists have been saying for years that searching for our roots is one of the most popular of hobbies, and now television networks are confirming that.

Four of the first 14 episodes won their time slot in the ratings for NBC — programs focusing on Brooke Shields and Susan Sarandon in Season 1, and shows featuring Steve Buscemi and Ashley Judd in Season 2.

My favorite shows from previous seasons included programs on Matthew Broderick’s Civil War ancestor and Rosie O’Donnell’s Murtaugh ancestors from Ireland.

Nine subjects have been announced for Season 3: actor Blair Underwood, actress Marisa Tomei, actress Helen Hunt, “The West Wing” star Martin Sheen, whose real name is Ramon Estevez; actor Rob Lowe, actress Edie Falco, singer-actress Reba McEntire, former NFL player Jerome “The Bus” Bettis and actress Rita Wilson.

Those who are passionate about genealogy sometimes ask why the series doesn’t focus on average Americans. The answer is that network television is dependent on advertising, which is influenced by ratings. By focusing on celebrities, NBC seeks to attract a broad range of viewers, not just those who actually research family history.

Great Britain was first to produce the series, and Canada also produced a season of “Who Do You Think You Are?” Canadian episodes featuring celebrities such as former hockey player Don Cherry occasionally have aired on CBMT on cable here in Maine.

PBS also is preparing a 10-part miniseries of “Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates Jr.,” set to begin airing on public television at 8 p.m. Sunday, March 25.

Skip Gates, a Harvard scholar, also hosted the family history programs “African American Lives,” “African American Lives 2” and “Faces of America” for PBS. I watched some episodes of each and enjoyed them very much.

Featured on “Finding Your Roots” will be Kevin Bacon, Harry Connick Jr., Robert Downey Jr., Branford Marsalis, John Legend, Martha Stewart, Barbara Walters, evangelist Rick Warren, Angela Buchdahl, Rep. John Lewis, Condoleezza Rice, Samuel L. Jackson, Newark mayor Cory Booker, Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Geoffrey Canada.

Some of the PBS shows in the past have used DNA to see whether two well-known people share ancestry.

Good for NBC and PBS for recognizing the tremendous interest in family history.

•••

I couldn’t resist purchasing the January issue of National Geographic with its cover story “A Thing or Two about Twins.”

I have nephews, Mark and Erik Moore, who are identical twins and seniors in high school. For years I couldn’t tell them apart. Now I can, if they’re together.

The National Geographic article was fascinating in its discussion of “nature vs. nurture.” Some twins who grow up together can seem different, whereas twins raised in separate families from birth, such as those adopted separately, may have much in common.

For more information on researching family history in Maine, see Genealogy Resources under Family Ties at http://bangordailynews.com/browse/family-ties/. Send genealogy queries to Family Ties, Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor, ME 04402; or email familyti@bangordailynews.com.

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