'Genealogy Roadshow': DNA and public records do the dirty work of tracing family trees

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stuart-krasnow-genealogy-roadshow-pbs-325.jpgOn Mondays from Sept. 23 to Oct. 14 on PBS (check local listings), the new series "Genealogy Roadshow" travels to Nashville, Detroit, San Francisco and Austin, Texas, to see if stories passed down in people's families are actually true.

Experts in genealogy, history and DNA then use family heirlooms, letters, pictures, historical documents and other clues to verify the family legend.

Excutive producer Stuart Krasnow tells Zap2it, "Our casting process is that we really have put out outreach beforehand, and we did that through the PBS station, since we are a new show. These are very specific questions [that people have]. It's not just, 'Oh, tell me everything about my roots, where I came from.' It's really, 'We want to know if we are related to Abraham Lincoln,' for instance.

"Then our researchers and genealogists, along with our DNA collection, really go through and try to prove that claim or not prove that claim."

Regarding the specific records searched, show genealogist Joshua Taylor says, "It's funny, anything can be a record. A parking ticket could be a record in 50, 60 years for someone to trace what happened. We use newspapers. We used land records quite often, probate records, wills, inventories of estates. A lot of the records we use are public records.

"It's a matter of knowing which archive or which courthouse, and you know, sometimes you have to bribe a county clerk to let you stay late or let you get at the records."

Known for its country music, Nashville has populations of Mexican, Cambodian and Iraqi origin, along with a longstanding Jewish community and a recent influx of Kurdish immigrants. Austin has a deep Native American history, along with Mexican, Asian, African-American and European-American communities.

Along with many African-Americans descended from people who left the South, Detroit, the home of Motown, has residents of French Canadian, European and Arab descent. Owing to its ever-changing economic base, San Francisco is home to communities with roots around the world.
Photo/Video credit: PBS