Last week’s Who Do You Think You Are? episode, featuring Blair Underwood, is easily the best of the current season, and may be the best of all time. (Click here for NBC’s episode guide.)
Let me count the ways I liked it:
- Blair Underwood showed himself as thoughtful, intelligent, quick on the uptake, and very engaged with the research process.
- The episode showed the unfolding of a very realistic research process–let’s go to the Library of Virginia, now we need to go to Lynchburg, now it’s back to LVA, and back to Lynchburg again. This really illustrates how iterative researching family history is–we look at sources in a repository, which lead us to other sources in a different repository, which often lead us back to the sources we looked at before, and on and on it goes, back and forth, building layers of information and knowledge all the way.
- The historians did an excellent job of providing context context and illustrating its value–from a newspaper description of a bizarrely dressed eccentric Soaney Early, we forge a link to African-American conjurors. From a newspaper article about a violent cow-killer, we learn of a tenant farmer reacting to trespassing cattle owned by newly arrived white neighbors. The explanation of Virginia laws regarding free people of color and ownership of slaves by freedmen was the piece de resistance in this regard.
- DNA research was used to provide links back to Africa. (See Judy G. Russell’s The Legal Genealogist blog entry for another take on the episode’s handling of DNA, though.)
Can’t wait for Friday’s episode featuring Reba McEntire. Look for MGS’ North Star 2012 speaker D. Joshua Taylor in the episode. (Thanks, Paula Stuart Warren, for the heads up!)