Which Ancestry TV Show Do You Watch?

By | March 10, 2017

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 broadcasted over the years. So which ancestry TV show do you watch?

Ancestry TV Show

We get hooked into 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, as well as some others that may have peaked our interest into discovering our roots.

Topics covered in this post:

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 own 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 Ancestry.com. These adverts have too been responsible for a rise in the popularity of this hobby. They must obviously have helped gain the popularity of its website as well.

Credit:   Ancestry

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 in the UK.

Not too sound like I am trying to promote the magazine, but you really get some 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.

By watching these shows we can get some useful tips and strategies along the way that we can use with our own family history. And we can get sometimes get some much needed inspiration to carry on with our own genealogy research. This is especially true if we have hit a brick wall.

Why do we watch genealogy shows?

So here I just want to 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.

Credit: I give credit to the following TV shows who have 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.

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

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

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

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

Finding Your Roots TV Show

Credit: Finding Your Roots

The show looks at the ancestry of American celebrities from various different backgrounds, exploring not only their family history but also their family stories as well. It has become quite diverse in this respect.

The 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 the everyday people also feature on the show. Their background and ethnicity are also explored on the show in order 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 to the previous shows as it explores the ancestors of the everyday person. These people are featured based on applying to be featured on the show.

Genealogy Roadshow TV Show

Credit: Genealogy Roadshow

The Genealogy Roadshow looks at people from historical location 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 actually true or not.

It certainly is an interesting format to 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 which 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 off 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 hearing 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 brothers’ children and our descendants would not know about their family’s past.

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 obviously 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 Which Ancestry TV Shows Are 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. I would love to hear from you.

Author: Owain

Hello, Owain here. After researching my family history for a number of years I wanted to give back to the genealogy world. So here you will find guides, tips and product reviews that will help you on your genealogy journey.

12 thoughts on “Which Ancestry TV Show Do You Watch?

  1. Adriana Olmedo

    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. Owain Post author

      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.

  2. J. Haugland

    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. Owain Post author

      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.

  3. Kayla

    Interesting read! I had no idea there were so many genealogy shows but I remember seeing the commercials for ancestry.com 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. Owain Post author

      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.

  4. Kevin Bulmer

    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. Owain Post author

      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.

  5. Ronnie Jordan

    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. Owain Post author

      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.

  6. 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. Owain Post author

      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.


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