The USA is among the most patriotic of the world’s nations. With that in mind, it’s perhaps surprising that the American Who Do You Think You Are? has taken so long to bring us a celebrity with a war veteran relative. Matthew Broderick’s programme last night made up for the delay, by providing not one but two family heroes.
First up, the comedy actor delved into his grandfather’s service in World War I. The British and American Great War experiences are heavily intertwined, so it’s no surprise that Joe Broderick’s story was reminiscent of many we’ve seen on the UK programmes. Indeed, it reminded me greatly of Alan Cumming’s episode that aired just three weeks ago.
Still, I never tire of hearing of the sacrifices people made on the Western Front. The programme painted a harrowing picture of a medic dodging machine gun fire between the American and German lines – it’s actually amazing that anybody could have survived such an experience with their body and senses intact.
We were also given a fair idea of the records used to trace this story. The most useful of these was perhaps Joe’s service record – if you want to trace your family’s heroes, remember we have the UK equivalents in our Service Record and Pension Record collections.
After paying his respects in France, Matthew moved on to his paternal grandmother’s line, and traced it back to an American Civil War veteran. Because our own Civil War took place hundreds of years ago, I tend to forget the United States were divided as recently as the 1860s.
Robert Martindale fought to abolish slavery in America. I said two weeks ago I hoped soon to see Spike Lee’s episode, in which he traces his own slave ancestors. It would be fitting if that programme followed this one.