Ancestry.com

Who Do You Think You Are? Episode 2 – Emmitt Smith

On tonight’s episode of Who Do You Think You Are? on NBC, Emmitt Smith wanted to take his family roots back to Africa, and while the task may have seemed impossible at first, the stars aligned for Emmitt and researchers – not only did Emmitt trace the path of his American slave ancestors, he also discovered the location in Africa where his ancestors hailed from.

Here’s where his journey led:

  • Emmitt’s parents’ house, Pensacola, FL: Emmitt’s family didn’t talk much about their past when he was growing up. But a discussion with his parents offers him key clues that prove invaluable in his search. The two most telling are that his grandmother, Erma Lee Watson, had “white blood” and that she was from a small town, Burnt Corn, Alabama. Before traveling to Burnt Corn, Emmitt finds a website that also lists the names of Erma Lee’s grandparents: William and Victoria Watson.
  • Burnt Corn, AL: The town of Burnt Corn is largely vacant when Emmitt arrives, leaving him wondering where to go, what to do. But at a local store, Emmitt finds someone to ask questions of. As luck would have it, that man is also related to William and Victoria Watson, knows who Emmitt is, and relates more details to Emmitt about their family’s past.
  • Monroe County (AL) Courthouse, Archives, and Heritage Museums: Until this point, Emmitt has been working from stories, but now he turns his search to documents that can back up those tales. But first he gets a tough lesson in history: marriage records for African Americans were segregated in Monroe County in the late 19th century. Needing more information, Emmitt turns to Ancestry.com to find a 1900 census record for Victoria and William Watson, which gives him a birth year for each as well as marriage details and more. This information helps him locate a marriage record for Victoria and William, which includes Victoria’s surname, Puryear. Victoria’s death certificate goes a step further, listing the name of her father, Prince Puryear. An 1870 census record – the first census in which formerly enslaved African Americans were listed by name – turns up Prince Puryear, race mulatto. There are other Puryears living nearby, including Mariah Puryear, age 55, also mulatto. Is this Prince’s mom?
  • Clairborne House, Monroeville, AL: Tackling slave research before 1870 means focusing on the slave owner. Since it was a common practice for slaves to adopt the surname of their owner, the search turns to local slave owners with the surname Puryear. There is one: Alexander. A letter written by him mentions a slave, who is quite likely the same Mariah.
  • Puryear Family Plot, Monroeville, AL: The Will of Alexander’s wife, Mary Puryear, shows Emmitt the family connection he was looking for: lists Mariah and her children by name, Prince included.
  • Mecklenburg County Courthouse, VA: Traveling to the home of the Puryear family in Virginia, Emmitt learns more about the process of slave trading. He also sees a deed indicating the transfer of Mariah, age 11, to Alexander Puryear from his father, Samuel. It’s believed that Mariah was Samuel’s daughter. Unfortunately, Emmitt’s paper trail ends here.
  • Ouidah Museum of History, Benin, Africa: A DNA test points Emmitt to his ancestor’s home in Africa. Traveling there, Emmitt learns how his ancestors would have been taken into slavery. He also discovers that things aren’t much better today: in his homeland there still exists child trafficking.

Most American genealogy starts out the same: you begin with the known and venture into the unknown, from 20th century records, including census records, and follow clues back to the past. But in African American history, toward the end of the 19th century, you have to change gears and stop following your own family and follow the slave owner’s family instead.

Learn more about finding African American ancestors and get quick links to databases that could prove revealing, at Ancestry.com. And venture beyond the listed collections: Emmitt also found big discoveries in land and property records and written histories. Census slave schedules (1850 and 1860), newspapers, tax records, and smaller state-based collections can prove invaluable to your search, too. To find resources associated with a specific state at Ancestry.com, select Card Catalog from the Search tab. Scroll down and filter by location, choosing United States. Then select the state you’re interested from the list.

If you missed Emmitt Smith on Who Do You Think You Are?, full episodes of show will be available online here. And while you’re there, also watch a preview of next week’s episode featuring actress Lisa Kudrow.

About Heather Erickson
Heather Erickson is Head of Global Communications for Ancestry.com and has been with the company since 2009.

63 comments

Comments
1 SusanMarch 12, 2010 at 10:45 pm

Great show!Emmett was sincere and respectful even when he heard unpleasant information. We don’t need everyone to be famous, we just need a story that touches each of our hearts. Emmett’s family rose above the worst of their situation and gave that heritage to their children. This show had nothing to do with my research but it was well worth watching.

2 AndyMarch 12, 2010 at 11:05 pm

Who was the artist that sang at the end of the show with Emmitt Smith?

3 Lisa ButlerMarch 12, 2010 at 11:13 pm

I was disappointed that Emmitt felt his search ended with Mariah. The Puryears, for better or worse, are his heritage also. We have to put their crimes in historical perspecitve. They weren’t viewed the same then as now.

The horse thief, murderer, or whatever is still part of your family and to ignore them is to risk not seeing the whole picture of your heritage. Many of my ancestors were Vikings and thus raped and pillaged most of the known world for centuries, and, yes, even taking slaves. I can celebrate my Norwegian heritage without condoning their crimes.

Emmitt is Caucasian, African and Native American. You just can’t write off the parts you don’t like. They are written in your genes and you are the sum of those parts.

Lastly, though it is most likely that Mariah’s mother was not a willing sex partner, we can’t assume it was rape. Look at Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemming. I would surmise the white wives would most resent the female slaves whom their husbands may have had feelings for. Again, we just don’t know. Every slave owner wasn’t Satan and every Abolitionist wasn’t a saint.

4 TinaMarch 12, 2010 at 11:23 pm

I loved the show. I felt Emmitt’s pain when he discovered the human suffering that his ancestors went through as slaves. I am glad he went back to Africa to close the circle. I found it very alarming that the selling of slaves continues today. My hope for Emmitt is he go back and search for Mariah’s grave and place a memorial for her. Have the slave cemetery cleaned up if he can.

5 BarryMarch 13, 2010 at 12:32 am

Why have both weeks shows done all the research on the persons Mothers side and NOT the Fathers side of the family. This seems to be the “easiest” data to find??

6 LisaMarch 13, 2010 at 1:41 am

Emmitt’s journey in uncovering his family lineage has renewed my interest in nailing down my family lineage. I know it will be a difficult task (as is the case when mapping most African American generational lines). But, I’m up for the task. This is a great show! I look forward to upcoming episodes.

I hope this show has plans to (also) help people who are not in the “public’s eye” to research their family history.

7 Andy HatchettMarch 13, 2010 at 4:00 am

Lisa,

It all depends on how you define “help”. This show is designed to do one thing- generate interest in genealogy and hopefully lure new people to Ancestry’s site to begin their research. There are a ton of tools and documents to help one achieve that goal but the person will have to learn to make use of them.

If you mean help in as in Ancestry staff or paid genealogists actually helping you tracing individual members of your family I’m afraid your going to be disappointed.

8 SheronMarch 13, 2010 at 5:31 am

I felt Emmitt’s pain as well as his joy discovering his roots. It still hurts to know just how the slaves were treated, it hurts. This brings back so much pain for me, as my family endured the same past as slaves.
I wish that I could have the same walk that he did in finding all of my past. It would be so nice to see regular people get the help with out being a public figure. I have been searching for years, and I could really use the direction in finding just who the master was, his name, and find the rest of my family.

Thank you for making some things possible on ancestory.com.

9 Ron PickartsMarch 13, 2010 at 6:36 am

What a great show.It brought a tear to my eyes. I cant imagine the horible act of slave trading, and it still go’s on today.I would hope as we search for our root’s, we too can relive the pain,suffering,and yes the joy our ancestors went thru to make us who we are today.

10 CindyMarch 13, 2010 at 6:44 am

Wow, is the first thing that I can think of. Congrats to Emmitt. I am sorry that his family had to go through what they did. Mariah, was a remarkable woman. I started out in the late 70′s searching for relatives,talking to older family members, going to local places and various places in Virginia. I live near Mecklenburg County, Virginia. I had to do the paper trail by going to courthouses, libraries etc…had to put it on hold for quite a while, then came Ancestry.com, but due to very limited funds, I could not pay the fees to join and look further, however now I can. I have ran into many roadblocks, it seems my family were poor farmers and or sharecroppers. I am told that I have Irish and Native American (Cherokee) roots, to me they were slaves also.I am having alot of trouble finding relatives that existed on the census records.

11 Annie TurnerMarch 13, 2010 at 7:05 am

I enjoyed the episode on Emmit Smith—but finding out about your family’s history is harder then you think. We’re trying to find info on a family member of my friend & we’re stuck because we’ve got no info on him before he married his wife.

12 Donald AspinallMarch 13, 2010 at 7:18 am

I believe Emmit Smith finding his “roots” was as great as it comes. I’ve been doing Genealogy for many years and last night’s program just gives me more incentive to keep on looking. He had an advantage we all wish we had and that’s the money to hire a professional and travel to our ancestral home.

Looking forward to next week and the coming weeky programs.
Congratulations on an exceptional piece of work.

13 IdaMarch 13, 2010 at 7:50 am

I really have enjoyed the shows and look forward to seeing the rest. If the show traced the genealogy of some unknown person I don’t think the interest would be there. I keep waiting to see if a common ancestor pops up. Now that would be exciting if they hit on my tree… Great show. I hope they do it again.

14 johncatworthMarch 13, 2010 at 7:54 am

Great show, but the resulting mass email did have one disingenuous tip – that of hiring a researcher to photograph headstones. While that sometimes may be needed, you can also use the volunteer network on findagrave.com if you have the basic information in hand and just need a photo – I’ve both taken them for others and received photos. T

15 Mary CichonMarch 13, 2010 at 8:08 am

When Emmit Smith started on his journey, he didn’t know what to expect. You could see him get caught up in the search with every new finding. And when he learned of the horror his family went through, the sadness was in his eyes for eveyone to see. He was not acting. He was seriously interested and genuinely horrified to learn of his roots. This was a good segment to your series. I truely wish Emmit good hunting if he continues his journey.

16 Tia GrayMarch 13, 2010 at 8:42 am

I thought the show with Emmit Smith very touching. I am wondering which DNA test Emmit took to find out he was 7% Indian 12% European and 81% Africian. I have take DNA test and have never been told the percentaqe of my heritage. Does Ancestry offer this tes?

17 Kathy HurstMarch 13, 2010 at 8:44 am

I feel as strongly as the other above that this was an excellent presentation and well worth watching. I was glued to the TV as I watched Emmitt Smith on his journey. I loved the look on his face when new information was uncovered. I appreciated how he and those who aided him were postitive in their attitude as they discovered very disturbing facts. It is disturbing but it is also the truth and I enjoyed his conclusion that he felt more connected or “cleansed” by understanding his family better. I can’t wait for the next show!

18 HazelMarch 13, 2010 at 8:55 am

The State Library of Virginia is in the process of microfilming all their state records and will eventually have them on their website. The task is quite daunting. I am working with records in Charlotte County and my friend is working with records in Halifax County. Both are adjacent to Mecklenburg County. The problem with Virginia records is that many of the County Court Houses in Virginia were burned by the Yankee soldiers during the Civil War. Some county records were entirely burned, while some only lost partial records.

We diligently search for slave records to make them available as the information is put online. If you have ancestors from Virginia, keep checking the State Library of Virginia’s website, as they are updating as quickly as they can. Unfortunately, with the current economic situation in VA, the Governor has cut the Library’s budget substantially which could bring this project to a halt later this year.

19 Elaine AdamsMarch 13, 2010 at 9:03 am

I wish Emmit and his family much joy in finding some roots.Good or bad,I think it gives a person a new perspective on their life.As a researcher,I would be reading more on Sam Puryear(plus 1790 census)to see if Mariah’s mother could be found. And Megan Smolenyak is a big help.She is the one that started me on genetics and slave laws to help with my A-A research.

20 Art PettyMarch 13, 2010 at 9:32 am

I have thoroughly enjoyed each of the first two episodes of “Who Do You Think You Are.” Emmit Smith’s family was particularly intriguing to me. I remembered that I had a Puryear in my family line as well. I checked and found Martha Jane Puryear who married

21 CassandraMarch 13, 2010 at 9:36 am

I enjoyed the the search, I have also came to a road block on my family tree, Slave records are not the best, with name changes when they were sold, and in TN were my dead ends comes in 1870, the records are bad. I wish I had the time and money to travel to the places I have been led to. I have all the way back to the 1880′s and 1870′s on both sides of my family Coffee and Hollins

22 Art PettyMarch 13, 2010 at 9:46 am

I have thoroughly enjoyed each of the first two episodes of “Who Do You Think You Are.” Emmit Smith’s family was particularly intriguing to me. I remembered that I had a Puryear in my family line as well. I checked and found Martha Jane Puryear who married William Henry Paine Jones. While I had never pursued this line before, I was quickly able to find that Martha Jane Puryear was the daughter of William H. Puryear (1824 – 1870) from none other than Mechlenburg County, Virginia! While I was not immediately able to connect William H. and Samuel, since the location and time frame are the same I assume that they were probably cousins. I certainly cannot condone the occupation pursued by Samuel (as describe in the show), but to even be remotely connected to Emmit’s story makes me proud and appreciate once again how small our world really is. Truly we are all connected and this is what makes genealogy so exciting.

23 CindyMarch 13, 2010 at 10:42 am

I highly enjoyed this week’s show. I have a few questions. On the show, they pretty much established Samuel Puryear was Mariahs’father, but who was the father of her children? Who was Princes’ father? Did I miss something? Can anyone clue me in? My husband thinks maybe Alex Puryear, but that was never discussed.

24 LaureneMarch 13, 2010 at 11:22 am

I’ve been researching my family history for 20 years and can’t get beyond 1849, so was thoroughly amazed at what and whom Mr. Smith found in a relatively short time! How exciting for his children to have this information too.

25 JimMarch 13, 2010 at 12:17 pm

My wife and I thoroughly enjoyed last nights show. Emmitt was amazing, as he was on the football field.
He was so natural, so real. I enjoyed reading this blog as it brings back good memories of the show.

Keep up the good work Ancestry and thank you!

26 JanetMarch 13, 2010 at 2:38 pm

I have been enjoying the show much more than I thought I would. I would like to see them scan the documents they show, and have links to them on the website. If they ever connect to my family, I would be very anxious to view what they are reading. Even not being related, it would be interesting to be able to read more on the topic.

27 JaneMarch 13, 2010 at 3:08 pm

Why doesn’t Ancestry.com do the genealogy of an average American citizen. All these people whose roots are being traced,can afford to hire an expert.

28 Tom HMarch 13, 2010 at 4:48 pm

Another great show. Glad they featured an A-A example early in the series to address the difficulties in slave records prior to the Civil War. Also glad to see mostly reasonable comments on this episode’s blog.

But I really want to commend ancestry and the producers for the way they handled the slavery issue. Emmit was genuinely touched as he began to connect the horrors of slavery to his very own personal family. But the issue was treated with respect and without overtly singularly connecting it with a particular race. (Slave traders BOUGHT slaves in Africa from other Africans. And, as we should know, and actually saw in the episode, humans are STILL trafficked today. Evil knows no racial boundaries.)

And, just as in the first episode, connecting our own flesh and blood to the events of American history is what combines genealogy and history to make us feel like REAL Americans.

Great show. Looking forward to the rest of the series.

29 Kirk SellmanMarch 13, 2010 at 5:00 pm

I would think that Ancestry would have to do almost every one of Emmitt’s family lines to find the kind of story they want to tell. It must’ve taken months.

30 Angela GMarch 13, 2010 at 5:40 pm

I loved the show last night, but have comments about the comments.

I have seen several comments regarding cost. I have been doing research for several years and have a few suggestions. I will admit, it can be an expensive hobby/obsession. However, here are a few suggestions on how to reduce cost.

A family history consultant at a local “Family History Library” and the volunteer workers time are free. (some are more experienced than others). Usually at Family History Libraries, there is some limited access to Ancestry.com and other websites. A trained consultant can show you how to do an effective search on these websites.

2. Collaberate with your siblings and extended family. If records need to be ordered or film rental will be necessary, split the cost.

3. Become accquainted with what is free and on-line. There are many websites that have vital records now from late 1800′s to early 1900′s with the actual image on-line. For example, Missouri Death Certificates from 1910 – 1958. There is no one database that has all of the answers. Although, I have to say Ancestry.com is one of my favorites.

4. Try a http://www.google.com search. Some of my most amazing finds were found that way. This is usually free.

5. Our family has discussed that each year, part of our tax refund goes to pay for Ancestry.com.

6. Eventhough, I can’t afford to travel to the places of my ancestors, I use a virtual tour by way of the internet by using various free on-line maping websites. It helps me get a perspective of what mountains, rivers and road were in the towns and what was next to them. Another thing that I have done is a research trade. I’ll have a contact in another state that can look up a burial or cemetery and I in turn look up one for them in my town.

I look forward to future shows.

31 LINDA CARDWELLMarch 13, 2010 at 6:48 pm

For those asking about the type of DNA test Emmitt took, I saw Lisa Kudro and the gentleman who did the PBS version of ancestry on Oprah last week. He explained that the tests showing the percentages of ethnicity are not yet publicly available — so in other words, they are currently not available to the average person. I think the test must be very intricate and therefore extremely expensive, requiring detailed interpretation by experts = $$$$

32 Violetta Sharps JonesMarch 13, 2010 at 6:48 pm

I am really enjoying the program,I have been a genealogy researcher for 20 years, I use Ancesry.com on a regular bases. I feel your program was a little misleading, as an Afro American it is not as easy as you made it appear to locate and identify our ancestors once you get past the 1870 census. I often find limited help in understanding and researching slave records even from researchers. I utilize all records that are available to me but they all fall short when it comes to Afro American research. While I am enjoying the results from researching celebrities that have unlimited resources, I would love to see this journey taken with everyday folks. I have not been unable to locate any slave records with any of my ancestors. I have marriage records, land records, wills, death certificates etc. but no records showing their journey prior to 1870 census!

33 MichelleMarch 13, 2010 at 7:09 pm

What I like most about the series is it shows the basic steps in genealogy research and it is not just type in a name and voila! I’m related to someone famous. Yes, the show is about famous people because it draws the audience in. We all are intrigued by celebrity, admit it or not. And this is not a real-time show so of course months and months of research is compacted into a 60-minute show. But is shows that genealogy is a sleuthing adventure that can lead to amazing stories about who we are and where we have come from. And you don’t have to be famous to have that. Maybe one of the truly universal experiences. My only hope is that this series continues beyond this first set of stories. For once there is something interesting on a non-PBS station. NBC, listen to us…keep this show!

34 Dawn SchumacherMarch 13, 2010 at 7:47 pm

Great show! I have a few comments, and they may have done this behind the scenes and weren’t included in the show. To me, it looked like they were making an educated guess that Samuel Puryear was Mariah’s father. To prove it, and maybe they did, couldn’t they take a DNA sample from a living descendant of Samuel Puryear (if there is one) and Emmitt Smith to prove they have the same ancestor? Also, I know it was painful to find out his ancestral slavery past in the U.S.A., and it was a terrible thing. However, not that this makes it right, but Emmitt could look at it differently. Because of the suffering his ancestors went through, he and his daughters are in the USA and not going through it. If he has any relatives in Africa, some may still be suffering, they still have child slavery there. Even if Samuel Puryear was evil, there’s still a chance he had kind ancestors. I think Emmitt should not just pursue his black heritage, but the white and Native American. After all, he is a sum of all. If not, he wouldn’t be who he is.

35 Wanda McDonoughMarch 13, 2010 at 10:40 pm

RE # 16′s comment. I too have taken the DNA tests for myself and male relatives and learned NOTHING new. I knew we were from Europe but wanted to know about my native American Heritage. We wasted nearly $1,000.00 through Ancestry on multiple DNA tests before they said “We don’t offer Native American specific testing.” I sure would like to know a reputable sorce for this info that would not cost another fortune. I have been doing genealogy since 1980 so I know document wise I just want genetic proof.

36 Kay AMarch 14, 2010 at 8:03 am

I thought Emmitt’s reactions were more believable and restrained than those of Sarah Jessica Parker’s in the first episode, which made the show easier to watch and enjoy. As always, though, the “made-for-television” journey is much easier and quicker than the rest of us experience in real life — e.g., experts handing Emmitt documents, including a copy of a death certificate. I also thought the show was guilty of a committing a common flaw in genealogy — making an assumption. In this case, it was that Samuel Puryear, the plantation owner, was the father of Mariah. That’s just one possibility; it also could have been one of his white sons, a white brother or cousin, a white overseer. As with Thomas Jefferson, it’s still not proven whether it was Jefferson himself who fathered Sally Hemmings’ children or one of his relatives. All in all, though, the show was fascinating and prompted me to order DNA tests from Ancestry. I hope I find the results more enlightening than the last poster.

37 LyricMarch 14, 2010 at 8:15 am

It’s important to understand that the trans-atlantic slave trade had far-reaching consequences. Not only did it have a horrible impact upon the Africans that were enslaved and brought to the Western hemisphere but the slave trade had an equally devastating impact upon Africa. We cannot imagine what Africa’s present state would be without acknowledging that Africa’s historical trajectory was brutally “interrupted” and altered by the slave trade that depleted Africa’s people, untold human resources, etc. So to say that Emmitt should take some consolation in the suffering that his ancestors endured because he and his children are now in the USA as a result is short-sighted. If the trans-atlantic slave trade had never taken place, Emmitt’s African kin would most likely be immensely better off than they are now. (Without the impact of the slave trade, colonialism, etc. Africa’s role and standing in the world arena would be on par with other nations.) The only thing we can say with assurance is that the entire Western hemisphere—the United States, in particular—would be markedly different without the “ill-gotten gains” derived from slavery that enriched this country beyond measure.

38 George CMarch 14, 2010 at 9:01 am

I thought the Emmitt Smith episode was clearer in where documents/information was found. The Blog synopsis was welcome too. I couldn’t find a program web site that told me more details of why certain ancestor lines were pursued or more about that new DNA test. Did SJP already have her father’s info?
Has Emmitt found out more about his native American side?

39 CamilleMarch 14, 2010 at 9:23 am

Great show, but I would like to see more stories of ordinary people and their ancestry.

40 Jan MurphyMarch 14, 2010 at 10:46 am

I think this episode is a good example of why we need to be careful about making assumptions while doing our research. Look at some of the comments here, for instance. Some people have assumed that the celebrities themselves are undergoing the cost of the research — but isn’t it far more likely that the expenses of research and travel are being taken care of by the TV show?

It is also important to remember that the time frame of the ‘discoveries’ have been compressed to fit into the TV timeslot. Laurene comments on what Emmitt Smith was able to find in “a relatively short time” but in reality, the US version of WDYTYA has been delayed several times over. We don’t know how long it took for the pro genealogists to assemble the research for the celebrities on the show — it is easy to get caught up in the excitement and assume that things can be found ‘just like that’.

I think we can learn things from the show, but we have to adapt what they do on the show to what we can do with our own resources. As Angela G said, there are many ways to get at information if we can’t travel, and even if we can, we are better off doing as much research as we can before we travel.

41 HelenMarch 14, 2010 at 11:54 am

I am really enjoying the shows! I have been working on my trees for 23 years. I’ve made the connection to living relatives in Germany from a 1742 Immigrant. The stories never get old to me!! Love it!

I would like to see more available SOURCES listed for the location(s) that these families research in. Those researching in the same areas may not know what records are available in that state or county.

And I as a genealogist I appreciate the time and expertise that the CONTRIBUTING HISTORIANS and GENEALOGISTS bring to the table. I would like to briefly hear about their BACKGROUND so that viewers will see the types of people involved in genealogy!!

And it would be nice to see a LIST of NGS (National Genealogical Society) GENEALOGY SOCIETIES in the USA. Currently there are over 675 member societies and libraries.

Our Society will be hosting their 7th Annual Beginners Workshop in April.
(Denison TX Genealogical Society) We love to help visitors get started.

42 Gary BerlucchiMarch 14, 2010 at 12:56 pm

Try the following site to get DNA ethnicity results.

https://www.23andme.com/ancestry/origins/

43 Susan D.March 14, 2010 at 3:40 pm

Each show has offered a WOW factor for me. I love the show and want more. I hope it continues with those of us not so famous, just as many have said. But, watching celebraties find out their historical past is entertaining and exciting. Emmitt was real and honest, but I have always been a fan.

44 Andy HatchettMarch 14, 2010 at 8:40 pm

Susan,

Ancestry isn’t about to foot the bill for a non-celebrity TV show that would lack wide main-stream appeal to draw the masses to ACOM.

What they should really use this show for is to springboard from it and start local ACOM user groups like some of the genealogy software programs have.

45 Virginia DunhamMarch 15, 2010 at 4:52 am

Susan,
Personally I think it would be most interesting to present some programs using an everyday average person…many, many shows have had very successful airings when featuring the “ordinary man”…perhaps ACOM should consider running a poll to see how many of their subscribers would watch those programs. Each week they could focus on families with Italian ancestry…then German…then Native American, etc. By focussing on a different ethnic group each week, they could highlight the various sources available (and not available) for those ancestors.
Sometimes watching your “neighbor” featured in a program makes the possibility of “that could be me” much more real.

46 Cynthia OrthMarch 15, 2010 at 9:16 am

I am grateful for any show on genealogy and have enjoyed both of Dr. Gates’ series on PBS as well as this show from Ancestry. I have been researching various lines for 45 years and if you want a long running show, you can look for my ggg grandfather whose lineage is not to be found. I do feel the shows gives the impression that it’s a fairly simple process and would like to see more of the reasoning behind searching in this courthouse or that library. Ancestry’s records have been invaluable to me but I wish there were some way to make tree donors better source their data. Numerous errors exist, some just copying others, even having fathers of sons born years after the father’s death to mention just one.
I understand the attraction of the masses to the stars but to the researchers out there just seeing the various methods of research is a valuable thing. We’ve had our DNA done to no avail…our matches have so far been beyond genealogical time, but it’s a good thing to do.
Thanks for this rarity..a well done & informative show.

47 SusanMarch 15, 2010 at 10:12 am

Some of the biggest shows on TV right now are about ordinary people. There is also another way to introduce celebrities into the mix-surprise us. Take an ordinary person and let them meet their famous cousin. Ancestry should do this soon so that it adds variety. Mix up the locations so that we keep hoping ancestry will touch on an area that we are researching. Personally I don’t need the celebrity part, I need a great story told well. I am fascinated by the underground railroad. If we get to know them better we may find more names and dates for A A research.

48 ruthMarch 15, 2010 at 7:20 pm

Love this show, I am in the midst of finding my ancestors as well as my husband’s ancestors. Found out that many of mine had slaves they owned large amounts of land which they farmed and need the help they got from slaves. I just pray they were nice to them and treated them with respect (the slaves). It was shocking to me to actually see this, but like someone above said it is part of our heritage on both sides (black and white) We need to celebrate who we are because we sure cannot change it! Only our attitudes can be changed for the better

49 Glenda Jackie HarrisMarch 15, 2010 at 10:04 pm

Great Show, I wish it was 2hours long, my reason is that you could spotlight 2 people. My family is from Mecklenburg County Virginia, south Hill, Lacross, and Bracey, we are the Boyd,Baskerville, Valentine,Marks, Thomas,Lashley, I have being searching for over 10years.

50 Mabel WilsonMarch 16, 2010 at 4:13 am

I love this program. I have watched both shows and
they hold my attention. I am very interested in genealogy. I am the 23rd great granddaughter of
King Edward III and would love to have the money, health and opportunity to explore this matter.
Good show. Please bring someone in to look into
King Edward III.

51 JoAnn StringerMarch 16, 2010 at 8:23 am

I thought the shows were interesting and well produced. I was surprised to read the comments on the blog about Sarah Jessica Parker that were so negative. I agree that a famous person is a “hook” to draw people in and it serves its purpose well–Henry Louis Gates also serves up info on celebrities on his PBS show–and the guests are not the ones doing the research. I think it shows that celebrities have common roots, just as we all do, and they are just as interested in finding out their backgrounds. I would hope that the subjects of future shows would be drawn from different backgrounds, not all actors, as it seems most prevalent with this show. Let’s see some professors, some composers, some architects. I’d also like to see something that interests my husband and I — WHY people move from place to place. It appears in our family that ancestors came from well-to-do European backgrounds, immigrated to America, were officials and property owners, travelled west and became regular lower- and middl-class folks.

52 Pat MacchiaroloMarch 16, 2010 at 10:31 am

I have been doing genealogy for probably about 25 years. Although I did find the Emmitt Smith show very interesting and informative, it is more than a little misleading to viewers to think that all you need to do is travel to the town where your ancestors were born and your mysteries will be solved. Emmitt Smith was the beneficiary of a lot of very hard work and many hours of research done by someone else! I would say that not many family genealogists can afford to have someone else do all the leg work to solve the puzzles and break down the brick walls.

53 KimMarch 16, 2010 at 2:00 pm

I agree, it takes lots of work, long hours and money to research your family. Hey don’t give up!!! we should all look to find ourselves.

54 Erlene BestMarch 16, 2010 at 2:12 pm

I love shows like this. But why don’t you do someone who is not famous. I feel you will get better rating if it was not a famous person.

You have so many members, that could really show what they found about their family, Plus show some of the old photos, military records.

Thanks again

55 Arlee McCoyMarch 16, 2010 at 2:51 pm

I really enjoyed this episode about Emmitt Smith’s family. I really felt his pain when he found the slave owner, Puryear. Hopefully, the family members whose ancestors owned slaves have broken the cycle of discrimination and prejudice. What a great show!

56 Ernest HattonMarch 17, 2010 at 10:12 am

I think Mariah is Native American and African.

57 JoAnne WaszakMarch 17, 2010 at 8:09 pm

Hi
I have enjoyed the 2 shows so far,but you haven’t told the public how difficult it is at times to find the information and how much things cost.
Sure the celeberties have the means and funds but to us genealogy researchers, funds are a big brick wall at times. You didn’t say how long it takes to find the info either. The show makes it look very easy.I feel that it is misleading.
Thank you

58 RosaMarch 17, 2010 at 10:29 pm

I think the shows were wonderful. Surely everyone understands that hours, days, or maybe even years were put into researching the facts presented. Who says that the celebs paid for all their research? They or their families may have done a lot of it and hit the infamous brick wall. When I met my husband he could hardly tell me his first cousins’ names. Then one day he woke up and dcided he wanted to know where his dad was born besides just the state of Texas. We did years of research the old fashioned way, microfilm at the Morman churches, courthouses and of course historical societies. When he finally decided to get a computer he was able to get so much more information. I think ancestry.com, does a wonderful job getting so much information online and making it available for a resonable price. Thank you for that and for the TV series also. I enjoy them. It is neat to see other people find their families.

59 JoshMarch 18, 2010 at 10:46 am

This was a great episode. I loved the extent of the researching (pulling out books, going to archives). Funny how they didn’t even try to research the Smith surname and jumped ship a couple of times. This shows how difficult some lines can be to research – but I think this needs to be fully disclosed. Not every research journey will be as successful.

60 David SmithMarch 19, 2010 at 12:28 pm

Re: #59

Hi Josh

I know someone who was a production assistant on the series and it’s my understanding that they did follow all of the family lines back as far as possible.

They just ended up picking the line with the most detail or the most interesting story.

61 Al CrossMarch 19, 2010 at 6:04 pm

I just watched the Lisa Kudrow episode of your show, and….Your doing the right thing.

62 Pat FletcherMarch 20, 2010 at 12:07 am

#34 Dawn — You asked, “couldn’t they take a DNA sample from a living descendant of Samuel Puryear (if there is one) and Emmitt Smith to prove they have the same ancestor?” Emmitt Smith’s DNA would show his father’s paternal lineage & his mother’s maternal lineage only. In other words, because the show zig-zagged genders in most generations — from Emmitt to his father, to his mother, to her father, to his mother, to her father, and, finally to his mother, Mariah Puryear — Emmitt probably doesn’t have Samuel Puryear’s DNA. He might be able to track down a known female cousin who has Mariah’s DNA, and a known male cousin who has Puryear’s DNA, but he has neither. You might want to look at “Tracing Family Tree,” posted on 17 Mar 2010 by Debra Winstead . As Ms. Winstead calculates it, Mariah was “one of his 276 6th-great-grandparents.”

#48 Ruth — You said that many of your ancestors “had slaves they owned large amounts of land which they farmed and need the help they got from slaves.” I sincerely hope you have posted the names of the slaves you have found in your research. If you could list them, and where you found them, it would help their descendants get past “brick walls.” If you have a blog or a website and want to post the information there, please drop a note to Luckie at the bottom of her “Carnival of African-American Genealogy” page . She’s compiling a list of the different rosters. You could also contact one of the websites owned by people researching certain states or . There are many others. If you would rather post on a website dedicated to Slave Research, you could leave a posting at the AfriGeneas Slave Research Forum . Scroll to the bottom of the page for the link to “Post New”.

[...] Who Do You Think You Are? Episode 2 – Emmitt Smith [...]

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