Ancestry TV Show

Which Ancestry TV Show Do You Watch?

Genealogy TV shows have certainly caught our interest whether it is celebrities or the everyday person that the show follows. There have been plenty of these programs that have been broadcast over the years. So, which ancestry TV show do you watch?

Ancestry TV Show

These genealogy shows are so appealing!

We get hooked on learning what these shows discover about our favorite celebrities.

Here, I want to explore 4 of the more popular genealogy TV shows that are on our screens.

And also I will look into some other shows that may have piqued our interest in discovering our roots.

Discussed in this post:

Express Your Thoughts Below

Express Your Thoughts Below!

I would love to hear from you.

As genealogy is the second most popular hobby in the United States, (and I bet in most countries around the world), it is no wonder that this subject should have its television shows.

But did you know that the popularity of this pastime can be put down to the shows in the first place?

Before I do discuss the shows you may have seen many different TV commercials advertising

Credit:   Ancestry

These adverts have to be responsible for a rise in the popularity of this hobby. They must have helped gain the popularity of its website as well.

Which one started this craze?

The most popular and familiar of these shows is the Who Do You Think You Are? series that most probably started it all off.

It even has its own Who Do You Think You Are Magazine that is published in the US and the UK.

Not to sound like I am trying to promote the magazine, but you get some really useful insights into this hobby.

It’s just packed full of articles and interviews that can help the family historian.

Why Do You Watch Genealogy TV Shows?

But enough about this magazine. I wanted to talk about TV shows here that may have caught your interest about this American, (British, whatever), pastime.

Why do we watch genealogy shows?

The main reasons!

By watching these shows we can get some useful tips and strategies along the way that we can use with our family history.

And we can get sometimes get some much-needed inspiration to carry on with our genealogy research.

This is especially true if we have hit a brick wall.

Which genealogy show do you watch?

Below I will briefly explain what these shows are all about and what you can expect from them.

If you do watch and love a show that I have not featured here then please feel free to comment below.

I will only be too glad to add it to the post and discuss it.

Or, if you do watch a show that I have featured here and you love watching it then please share your thoughts about why you love it so much.


I give credit to the following TV shows who have been featured in this post: Who Do You Think You Are? US, Who Do You Think You Are? UK, Finding Your Roots, and Genealogy Roadshow

Who Do You Think You Are TV Show

The UK version of Who Do You Think You Are? first began to air back in 2004. It certainly seems to me to be the show that started off our interest in genealogy and all the other such shows.

Who Do You Think You Are? TV Show

Credit: Who Do You Think You Are? US | Who Do You Think You Are? UK | Who Do You Think You Are? Australia

It has become so popular that it has been adapted for ten other countries including the United States and Australia.

The premise!

In each episode, we follow a celebrity as they trace their family tree, or rather a particular branch that contains secrets or mysteries.

Though the celebrity only goes for the ride as the research is carried out by professional genealogists who have been hired for the show.

Despite that fact though it is certainly interesting to see what information is discovered about a celebrity’s ancestry.

Also, the celebrity in question will travel around the country looking at clues to their family’s past.

They may even travel to other countries as well.

Who Do We Follow?

In the first series of the UK series, we see Jeremy Clarkson tracing his roots. Other notable stars that have been featured on this show include Stephen Fry, David Tennant, Graham Norton, Jerry Springer, Martin Freeman, and Alan Carr.

The most recent show includes music sensation Cheryl and Lord of the Rings wizard Sir Ian McKellen.

The US version of the show came much later, beginning to air in 2010 as a replacement for The Jay Leno Show.

It was unceremoniously canceled in 2012 by NBC after three series.

Luckily for us though it was picked up by TLC and has continued to help high-profile stars discover their ancestry.

The US show is no different from its UK counterpart as it has contained many stars who are very familiar to us. these include Sarah Jessica Parker, Rosie O’Donnell, Martin Sheen, Jim Parsons, Kelsey Grammer, J.K. Rowling, and Chris Noth.

The latest series has already featured Courtney Cox, while John Stamos and Liv Tyler will also feature on the show.

Finding Your Roots TV Show

This PBS show is presented by Henry Louis Gates Jr. and first began to air in 2012. Like Who Do You Think You Are? it also features the many faces that we grew up with and current celebrities as well.

Finding Your Roots TV Show

Credit: Finding Your Roots

This show not uses only traditional genealogy practices but also the latest trend in genealogy research … DNA Testing.

The show looks at the ancestry of American celebrities from various backgrounds. It explores not only their family history but also their family stories as well.

It has become quite diverse in this respect.

Different backgrounds include:

  • African American
  • Asian American
  • Chinese American
  • Greek American
  • Indian American
  • Irish American
  • Italian American
  • Jewish American
  • Latin American

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. presents to the celebrity a Book of Life which includes a ‘complete as possible’ family tree, results from genetic testing, discovered family documents, and photos.

Correlations between the celebrities’ stories and research are also pointed out and explored.

Notable stars to have featured on this show include Barbara Walters, Robert Downey Jr., Samuel L. Jackson, Stephen King, and Jimmy Kimmel to name but a few.

Besides celebrities, everyday people also feature on the show.

Their background and ethnicity are also explored on the show to explore the star’s stories.

Genealogy Roadshow TV Show

This is another genealogy show that PBS broadcasts. It first began to air in September 2013. It is quite different from the previous shows as it explores the ancestors of the everyday person.

Genealogy Roadshow TV Show

Credit: Genealogy Roadshow

These people are featured based on applying to be featured on the show.

The premise!

The Genealogy Roadshow looks at people from historical locations all over the United States. It has been to places such as Nashville and Texas, up to San Francisco and California.

The show helps to uncover the truth behind not only family secrets but also community ones as well. Documents and letters are brought in to help with this research together with pictures and family heirlooms.

We all have family stories that have been passed down to us through the generations.

But is there any truth behind these tales?

I like this series as my family has many stories that have been passed down to me.

So, as I wanted to write down my own family stories I also wanted to verify whether they were true or not.

It certainly is an interesting format for the show.

Any family historian like myself wants to know whether their stories have any truth to them or whether they were merely fabricated tall tales.

Other Genealogy TV Shows You May Have Watched

Two British genealogy shows that I want to bring to your attention are Long Lost Family and Heir Hunters. The former show helps people to reconnect with relatives after many years apart.

The second show meanwhile helps people to receive money that they have inherited from dead relatives.

Long Lost Family starts by exploring a family’s past and why the estrangement occurred before reuniting people featured on the show. International versions of this show have been made in the United States and Australia.

Heir Hunters began in 2010 following Probate Researchers and how they work to unite people with money that they have inherited.

Its’ premise is another area in family history that we as genealogists are almost certainly interested in.

Have I missed your show out?

What genealogy TV show do you watch?

My Final Thoughts

My interest in genealogy started with the stories that my father would share with me and my brothers.

It was fascinating to hear about the lives that my ancestors led and just hear about a forgotten world.

I wanted to preserve thy family stories.

I knew at a young age that if I did not do this then who would.

And so if it were lost then my children, my brother’s children, and our descendants would not know about their family’s past.

Writing my own family story!

So, I began to write up these stories. But soon I would be sucked into the world of genealogy and learn a whole load more about my family.

I would also learn about the many resources available to me and little tips and techniques along the way.

My interest certainly peaked when I watched ancestry shows, in particular Who Do You Think You Are?

Although this series just explores one branch of an individual it certainly is a gripping show.

But in retrospect how could you cover every ancestor of an individual in a single show?

You couldn’t obviously!

So, these shows just concentrate on a single, (interesting), branch.

What genealogy TV show do you watch?

I would love to hear why you like watching these shows and which one is your favorite and why?

Have I forgotten a show that you are particularly interested in, or is there something that these shows don’t cover that you wished they would?

Check Out Ancestry TV Shows On DVD!

Thank You and Please Leave A Comment

I hope you enjoyed this post discussing which ancestry TV show that you watch. If you have any questions or comments then please leave a comment below.

Please share with family and friends if you think this post will help others by using the social media buttons below.

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Which Ancestry TV Show Do You Watch?
Do you watch an ancestry TV show? What is your favorite and why? Learn what shows are popular and if I discuss here favorite here.
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The Genealogy Guide
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16 thoughts on “Which Ancestry TV Show Do You Watch?”

  1. Hello Owain – Enjoyed your article. My family legends contain an interesting story about an English admiral, buying someone’s wife, a pirate, poisoning by a last meal to escape the hangman’s noose etc. This was all in the early 1800’s. Do you think any of the shows would be interested in featuring this on TV? If so, could you recommend which ones and how to get in touch? We have done a lot of research but have hit a deadend at present. Would be nice to get professional help. Thank you.

    1. Hi Liz,

      Thank you for dropping with your query. You certainly have some interesting tales to tell. Only recently did I discover an ancestor mine who went to prison for embezzlement. He though died 3 days later in the infirmary.

      I was at a lost as to what show to recommend until I came across the following post from the Family Tree Magazine website. I hope that you can find what you’re after here.

      Please let me know how you get on.


  2. Since we record the show “Who Do you Think you Are?” I watched Tim McGraw last night and the minute he found out his grandmother was a Chrisman, I told my daughter, they are going to talk about your cousins. My husband was William E. Creasman, Jr of Asheville, Buncombe County, North Carolina. For the past two weeks, I have been working on his line and when I saw Tim McGraw’s tree, there were the same names that I have been researching. So Tim is my daughter’s cousin. If I had watched it last week, it would have saved me a lot of time. Also, because the Chrisman and the Pressley families were on the same ship, I noticed that one of our Creasmans married a Pressley. Probably from the same family. I have found so many hints on my ancestry account Creasman Oswald Tree since I took my DNA tests and now have over 6,000 family members. I started doing genealogy when I about 7 or 8 because my mother and our neighbor took the kids with them on graveyard hunts and also my mother lived for a period above our county newspaper office and spent a great deal of time down in their office with the editor’s wife who ran a little store there. So even though she wasn’t born in the County, she met the people who came in to talk and then she work for the Farmer’s agency that gave out loans and stipends, and such to the farmer’s who lost crops. So she met the old families of the area. Our neighbor worked there also. They would visit every little graveyard all over the county of Lexington, SC and would talk up a storm. When Family Tree came out, I was one of the first to buy the disks and use a computer. I love genealogy. I could write hundreds of stories about our family members. I told my daughter I was going to call it The Good , The Bad, and The Ugly because it is all there for anyone to look at. And there were good people, bad people (my Great Uncle was head of the SC State Penitentiary and his brother was in there for murdering a man and died there.) and there was a lot of ugly circumstances. I have everything from Preachers, Prisoners, Thieves, Murders, Suicides, Alcoholism, Child Molestation, plus my town came to lynch my Great Grandfather who was a lawyer and was representing a black man who had been charged with rape of a white woman. I have been amazed on how much you can find if you look everywhere I am presently writing my second book on my Great Grandfather and two famous cases he represented. The basic message is how a town who elected my Grandfather as probate judge and were related and “his friends”: could turn against him. It bothered my Great Grandmother so much she requested Grandaddy Graham to move to Florida. Which he did, but he kept his practice in Lexington and came back and forth from Florida where he worked for Flagler as one of his lawyers. When they reached their later years they moved back to Lexington, SC. and died there. My daddy told me how my Grandfather Graham always slept with a gun under his pillow. He was arrested, even though the black man was pardoned by the governor and the black man was lynched Ancestry has made it so easy to find the information now, that it amazes me. I grew up visiting courthouses, interviewing oldtimers, rescuing photos of my family and even one of Gen. Robert E. Lee, being locked in a cage while the court administrators went to lunch in Edgefield, SC. I was lucky because my sister, my aunts, my cousins, my mother and her sister would go with us, so we had an annual trip each year to North Carolina. So I traveled and met some many very nice people and visited homes over 129 years old or older. So if folks think I am crazy, I don’t care. It has been and still continues to be an amazing ride. By the way I am 72 years old. My mother lived to be 96 and her sister is still living at 101 by herself and hikes daily. Last summer she was on her way out the door to go to the doctor and a snake had climb up her screen door and when she opened it, the snake fell around her shoulders, but it luckily got its tail caught in the door and it jerked it back where her daughter and she killed it. When they got to the doctor, my cousin asked the Doctor how was her mother doing, was her heart strong. He looked her in the eyes and said, “Honey, if she can survive a snake wrapping itself around her neck, I would say she has the heart of a young healthy adult. ” Life passes quickly but we leave our print on those we love and those that we met through studying their life stories.

    1. Hi Hope,

      Thank you for dropping by my genealogy site and commenting.

      I was going to say at least your research was not in vain as it did give you some experience. Although with 6,000 family members in your tree I think it’s save to say that you know what you’re doing.

      My family tree has only 2,000 people in it. I have built it out extensively looking at the descendants of my ancestors siblings.

      Anyway there are just so many resources out there that we can use to research our ancestry. It seems that personally I have come at the right time with so much information that is easily available on the Internet.

      Although visiting the birthplace of our ancestors can give us clues to our past. Such as grave sites.

      You have a very fascinating family history. Thank you very much for sharing it. I am glad that you have written up what you have discovered.

      It was only after I started to write up my own family history that I could see the gaps in my knowledge of my ancestors. Also, it opened up new avenues of resources for me.

      I was amazed at how valuable newspaper archives were as I have found several articles featuring my ancestors.

      Thanks again for sharing your research and insights Hope.

      I wish you continued success with your research and writing your second book.

  3. Bill Reist Geisel

    Owain–Enjoyed your website here. My favorite show is Genealogy Roadshow because I like how they flesh out the person’s ancestry and tie it to historical background. I watch all three though, and am waiting for new seasons, on pins and needles. On my mother’s side I come from a long line of Mennonite farmers who received land from William Penn’s sons in Central PA. My ancestor Hans Reist, was the key elder in the Mennonite Church when Jakub Amman split away to found the Amish. Very interesting history. I would be interested in hearing what you learned about your family tree that most captivated you Owain?


    1. Hi Bill,

      Thanks for the comment. I not only like finding out about my family history but about my ancestors local history. From this we maybe able to see how key events in the area may have affected our ancestors lives. To me it takes the subject of family history that step further.

      I have learned so much about my family tree through my father. One thing that does spring to mind is finding articles about my 2nd and 3rd great grandfathers. We both knew that they had some connection with illegal gambling from stories past down and these newspaper articles confirmed that.

  4. I never even heard of any of these shows but they sound like they deserve to be given a chance of me watching. I had a great aunt who lived to be 102 and her husband about the same. I think it would be interesting to trace back to find out about my elders and where they came from and what did they do in their days. Does these shows tell you how to get started if you wanted to do this?

    1. Hi Ronnie,

      That is a great age for both of them to watch. Many of my ancestors on my mother’s side died in their late 80s or just past that. They must have had a lot of stories to tell. Hopefully they have passed them down to members of your family.

      These shows can help you start by giving you clues of what you can do. I would suggest though to follow my Ten Step Guide to get you on your way to discovering your family history.

  5. Hi Owain,
    This is really interesting. Your commitment to this and initial curiosity and desire to know more about your family really intrigues me. I admire it.
    I haven’t seen any of these shows, but I immediately find the notion appealing! I’m in Canada: do you think I might find shows like that here? The PBS show from the USA is probably available, though we do get a lot of shows from the UK as well.
    Your article had me thinking of what a show would be like if it were to document my family going back many generations. You’re making me curious, Owain. I know some of the stories tracing our family back to Europe but, further than that? I wonder …
    Keep up the great work!

    1. Hi Kevin,

      Thanks again for dropping by again and leaving a comment. There was the Canadian version of Who Do You Think You Are? Sadly though it got cancelled after one season. Another Canadian show, although cancelled, was Ancestors in the Attic. Sadly though I am not aware of any current genealogy shows in Canada.

      I am glad though that I have peeked your interest. Genealogy is both an interesting and exciting. You just don’t know what you will discover. It also sharpens the mind I believe as you use logic to make deductions.

  6. Interesting read! I had no idea there were so many genealogy shows but I remember seeing the commercials for and other sites like it on a regular. Commercial after commercial. Also the commercials involving the dna site. And they have ALWAYS intrigued me. My husband actually became interested and started going through th process on ancestry. I’m sure he would to watch some of these shows. Great article.

    1. Hi Kayla,

      There is plenty of interest in genealogy these days. And this show with the programs on TV, the adverts, magazines and the many books that are available on this subject.

      I am sure that your husband would love these shows. I am sure that you would be too if you watched them with him.

  7. I think the ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ is adapted also to show here in Norway.
    I have watched it from time to time, and it’s been interesting enough, but all depending on who they are researching and if they’ll find some juicy stuff 🙂
    The other shows are not available here.
    However, the genealogy field was always popular here, and now MyHeritage is doing regular TV-commercials in order to make people sign up.

    1. You’re right there. I suppose it does depend on the celebrity who’s family tree is being investigated. Still though they always do find something of interest. If not then it would be a boring episode wouldn’t it?

      Ancestry seems to be flogged all the time on TV, (not that I mind though). You get to see people who have signed up to both Ancestry and AncestryDNA. Don’t think I have come across other adverts. I suppose it is only a matter of time.

  8. My friend told me too get into genealogy because I may not be as Mexican as I believe (I have been told I look Asian, Middle Eastern, and Native American). I did not know there were so many different shows available! All I really watch are homicides and sci-fi but this looks super cool. I do have a question though, how can this be one of the biggest pass time? Doesn’t it have an end? Like you will go all the way down the line and then that would be it wouldn’t it?

    1. Hi Adrianna, discovering your family history can be both challenging but so rewarding as well. Looks like you have quite some discovering to do yourself.

      The shows that I have listed here are just a few. There are some others that are currently on air, but also ones that have ended their run.

      There is no such end to this pastime. You can go further and further back, as long as records are available. Also, you can decide just how much information that you want to gather on an individual. There is just so much out there about our ancestors. It would take you years and years to collect. And I bet you would still be going.

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