Thursday, February 25, 2010

"Faces of America" Profiles and Family Trees

After three episodes of the PBS series, "Faces of America," hosted by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., I was curious if there were family trees posted on the PBS site, or any other website, for the twelve subjects of the series.

During the show, we see a family tree depiction briefly when an ancestor is highlighted. So they must have the family tree documented to put in the book handed to each subject.

The PBS website for "Faces of America" has profiles for each of the subjects, but does not have a family tree posted. The profiles for each subject are here:

* poet and professor Elizabeth Alexander,
* chef Mario Batali
* comedian Stephen Colbert
* novelist Louise Erdrich
* journalist Malcolm Gladwell
* actress Eva Longoria
* musician Yo-Yo Ma
* director Mike Nichols
* Her Majesty Queen Noor
* television host/heart surgeon Dr. Mehmet Oz
* actress Meryl Streep
* figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi.

Are there family trees published online for each of these persons? If so, where?

I have watched all three episodes, and have seen very little about Elizabeth Alexander, Malcolm Gladwell, Mike Nichols, Queen Noor, and Mehmet Oz. They have been introduced, but I don't recall an in-depth interview, opening the book, and ah-ha moments for them. Perhaps they will be featured in the fourth episode.

Other genealogists have commented that the show doesn't dwell on the research process performed for these celebrities. They receive a book of the collected research, and sit with Gates to learn of their ancestry. Gates goes to the foreign countries, not the subjects. Some of the subjects do visit American ancestral places - Eva Longoria and Meryl Streep did in the third episode. However, Gates was the one who went to China to find Yo-Yo Ma's genealogy - how much better would it have been for Yo-Yo Ma to go along?

6 comments:

MerRhosyn said...

If I remember correctly, there was a sit-down interview with Queen Noor and quite a bit of specific content shared about her NYC ancestors who came over from Syria. It was discussed in the context of the Syrian community in NYC and she was shown newspaper clippings of her ancestors. Think I'm referring to Episode 2 whose description includes "Her Majesty Queen Noor’s Syrian great-grandfather quickly found his footing in New York’s first Arab American community." I've been enjoying the show immensely!

Sanjay Maharaj said...

Perhaps as part of the editing process they did not have sufficient time to show the research process. This however is a great opportunity for the genealogy community to promote henealogy and get the younger generation interested in the subject matter

Heather Rojo said...

The posted genealogies for Meryl Streep do not show her Wilkinson line, which was showcased last night in her trip to Buck's County. They stated that she was descended of Lawrence Wilkinson of Providence Rhode Island, which would be of great interest to me. I'm a Wilkinson, not of Lawrence's line, but his mother's family (Conyers) are cousins. My Wilkinsons are from New Hampshire/Maine.

Martin said...

It seems the four shows were: (1) immediate ancestors; (2) grandparent/great-grandparent turn of the century immigrants; (3) longest-lines and furthest back ancestors; and (4) DNA.

Mike Nichols, Malcolm Gladwell, and Yoyo Ma are all foreign born themselves. Elizabeth Alexander and Mehmet Oz are the children of immigrants. All were featured in show #1 and Mike Nichols and Mehmet Oz particularly. Elizabeth Alexander had a piece in show #2 which also feature heavily, Queen Noor.

This is genealogy-lite. It is to entice the uninitiated. The 12 celebrities are poster children for diversity. Queen Noor, if you are paying attention, is only 1/4 Arab, yet that is all they dwelt upon, not the 3/4 American Texan. Also, if you've done any genealogy, it would be a miracle not to find your Quaker ancestors in the lovely records in Bucks Co. PA. And if you have Quaker roots (like I do) you have at least one who got tossed out (like Meryl). The idea is that they don't know the stories.

If they had planned it well, the fifth episode would have been the behind the scenes look at the actual research process. You can clearly have a camera there like most reality programs.

Heather Rojo said...

Martin, I agree. I like the shows about ordinary people and the process they come to for finding the answers- like the "History Detectives" or "Antiques Roadshow." None of these celebrities seemed particularly thrilled with the results. An ordinary person would have been dancing up and down with delight. They would have known some of these stories if they had just asked their grandparents a few questions.

Gwynn Socolich said...

Randy,
Did you see the SDGS video on PBS before the Faces of America show on Wed? I was doing the homework mom routine and I missed it!