Monday, April 23, 2012

Whose Charts are shown on PBS "Finding Your Roots" Series?

I really enjoyed the "Finding Your Roots" show on PBS last night, hosted by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.  The celebrities were actors Robert Downey, Jr. amd Maggie Gyllenhaal.

The six episodes shown so far are available as full length (about 50 minutes) videos at:

*   John Lewis and Cory Booker (aired 25 March 2012)
*  Branford Marsalis and Harry Connick, Jr. (aired 29 March 2012)
*  Barbara Walters and Geoffrey Canada (aired 1 April 2012)
*  Kyra Sedgwivck and Kevin Bacon (aired 8 April 2012)
*  Rick Warren, Angela Buchdahl and Yasir Qadhi (aired 15 April 2012)
*  Robert Downey, Jr. amd Maggie Gyllenhaal (aired 22 April 2012)

There are two aspects of the show that I find fascinating.

*  The DNA test results which often reveal startling information.  Fortunately, CeCe Moore on the Your Genetic Genealogist blog is covering this aspect of the shows well!  Each week, CeCe discusses the test results soon after the show is aired.

*  The family charts shown to the celebrities.  These include a large pedigree chart that shows ancestry back to royal or famous persons, and usually a chart showing common ancestry with a famous contemporary.

The large pedigree chart (like 20 generations) shown to Maggie Gyllenhaal last night looked like this:

One of my ancestors, John Lothrop (1584-1653) was discussed in some detail during the program and is on this chart.  Maggie Gyllenhaal was surprised (and I think really conflicted) by the chart showing that she was related, through John Lothrop, with George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush (plus Franklin d. Roosevelt and Ulysses Grant) in a chart like this:

Some of our genealogy management programs can make the latter chart fairly easily.  However, the larger pedigree chart was surely created by a genealogy chart creation company.  For a chart that goes back at least 20 generations it would be hundreds of inches wide if all ancestors found by a genealogist was shown.

There is a link to genealogical resources on the "Finding Your Roots" sitte - see  I found it interesting that they don't mention!

Does anyone know which program is used, and which company is making, these charts for the celebrities?

Does anyone know which genealogy research company is doing the genealogy research for this series?  Is there more than one?

The URL for this post is:

Copyright (c) 2012, Randall J. Seaver


Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak said...

Hi Randy, Johni Cerny did a lot of the research, as did NEHGS. And I did the research (and some DNA stuff) for several of the celebs as well. Don't know which company did the charts, though!

Patricia Greber said...

I too was wondering where they were getting their charts done at. Curious to see if you are able to find out.

Fi said...

Hi Randy, I would also love to know where those charts are made. They look so impressive.
I've also had an ancestor on a family history show, WDYTYA (Australian version). It really helped teach my teens that what Mum was researching was pretty cool!

Mariann said...

Excellent question. These programs make genealogy look so easy. Can you imagine how many hours of research are behind all those discoveries!? The stars of the show have a few questions and . . . hocus pocus! The genealogy chart! I hope these researchers are well paid for their hard work!

Your Genetic Genealogist said...

Hi Randy,
Thanks for the mention. I was a little late getting my post up today reviewing the DNA from last night's show, but here it is:

Lauri said...

I don't know who does the charts, but I use Charting Companion for FTM and can get large charts from it that I have had printed at Kinkos in b/w on blueprint paper for a reasonable price. Color options are also available, but costs alot to print.

Your Genetic Genealogist said...

Oh, and I forgot to say - we are Lothrop cousins! :-)

Dave said...

Hi Randy,

I'm a production associate for Ark Media, one of the production companies that produces Finding Your Roots. One of my colleagues forwarded me your tweet about the posters in the last episode. One of my jobs is to create the posters you see presented to the guests in the show. Using the information found by our researchers, I use a program called OmniGraffle to custom build the family trees posters. We use a local print shop here in Brooklyn called Remsen Graphics to do the printing, and it can cost anywhere from $30-$400 depending on the size.

Hope that's some good info for you!

Eden Joachim said...

Randy, etal,

I used PlotPro in Los Angeles, CA to print a poster which includes 10 generations and measures 8 feet wide by 4 feet high. They exhibited at the IAJGS Conference in LA in July 2010. I wanted matte white heavy weight stock which could be written on by relatives I was meeting for the first time, but they did offer different papers, weights and finishes, including fabric.
Pricing was reasonable(about $175)and they delivered within 48 hours of submission of a pdf of my tree.
Regarding the Jewish ancestry of the celebrities, I don't know of any particular company being involved. Dorothy Leivers (LitvakSIG) assisted in acquiring records from Prienai, Lithuania for the Robert Downey, Jr. segment.

Jean de Buren said...

My own approach to displaying my family tree.

Michael Pierce said...

Great posting and I'm glad that you got some insight from Dave on the production team.

I actually really like the "simple" charts they use on the show to display the generations as they are uncovered. I'm talking about the charts that are on parchment looking paper, rather than the colorful ones on the black background that you captured in your post.

I wonder if those are produced with OmniGraffle as well?

N I C O L said...

My whole family likes this show. I'm the genealogy addict so it is great to finally have the family enjoy it with me. I don't see the charts for those featured on the show posted anywhere online. It would be interesting to peruse them online. Anyone know if the charts are online (and I'm missing them) or if they'll be posted in the future?

Unknown said...

Thank you so much!

John D. Massey said...

Thank you!