A few days ago my dad and I got into a conversation about genealogy, a topic I've been interested in since I was a little girl thumbing through the family history written by my great-aunt Maryellen Robison Hinrichs. My grandpa gave each grandchild a copy of Maryellen's book, Cashin of Patrick, and mine was well-worn by the time I was in high school. In part, my interest in history grew from those early glimspes--imagining my ancestors' personal lives, the places and events that were important to them, the larger world around them.
Family history is one of the few interests Dad and I share, and once we'd started on the subject, we kept on until my phone died. Caught up in the spirit of our conversation, I watched an episode of Who do You Think You Are on Hulu that night. NBC has partnered with Ancestry.com on the series, which explores the family trees of various celebrities. The episode I watched traced a branch of Sarah Jessica Parker's family tree back to the witch trials in Salem, Massachusetts.
I can't say I loved the show, but I didn't hate it, either. Like most of reality TV, it was vaguely interesting. I wish the show would have delved more deeply into the research involved in genealogy or the historical events Parker's ancestors took part in and spent less time focusing on her awed reactions. The show's likely to create some unreasonable expectations about the ease of researching one's roots, but it also might excite people to investigate their own heritage--and that, to me, is a good thing.