Genealogy on TV

Last night I had a very interesting discussion with other members of the RQG (Register of Qualified Genealogists) about different ways genealogy is portrayed on television.

There are several shows now that explore a person’s history or try to find family that they have become separated from. The differences between these shows and the way they handle genealogical procedure are very interesting. On the one hand, there are the shows that dig into a person’s past and try to find interesting stories that both the person and the watching public will enjoy. On the other hand are the shows that try to trace living relatives, sometimes using DNA.

Personally, I find the historical type more interesting as going backwards into the unknown has always been more appealing, but that is not to say that the other shows are not interesting on an emotional level. As entertainment for the viewing public, these shows seem to have quite a following, but there are things that seem to be missing from a genealogical perspective.

This was certainly something that my RQG colleagues picked up on and many saw these shows as both a help and a hindrance to genealogists. They boost the public’s knowledge about genealogy, but fail to mention the hours of rigorous trawling through records that it took to find the interesting stories that appear on-screen.

Will we have to learn to live with the fact that full genealogical procedure will not make it into the television world where perhaps entertainment value is more important? Or will there one day be a programme that can do both?

I will keep watching, but with a better understanding of how genealogical programmes work behind the scenes.

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