Posted by on April 1, 2011 in Who Do You Think You Are?

Ever get to a point in your research when it seems like your life and your ancestors’ lives are running parallel to one another? On tonight’s episode of Who Do You Think You Are? actress Gwyneth Paltrow comes face to face with this scenario. By first discovering the trail of an immigrant ancestor whose confidence in her ability to succeed brought her to America and, later, by proving a rumor that reveals a very spiritual branch of her family tree, Gwyneth connects herself directly to the past. And she learns what it takes to dig deeply enough into a story to truly understand why her ancestors chose the paths they did. is a sponsor of the program, which airs tonight at 8/7c on NBC. And visit on Saturday morning for tips to finding the whys in your family tree, too.


  1. Wicked Witch

    OMG! A Virgin Blog…… How could I possibly resist?

    The totaliser at the bottom is rising – in English bingo terms we are now at Legs 11.

    ANOTHER ANOTHER chance for Ancestry to answer the question rather than fobbing-off etc etc.

    It’s Question and Answer time – AGAIN. A bit like an FAQ page AGAIN – in fact, rather a lot like an FAQ as this is just the latest occasion this question has been asked so it fulfils the F for Frequently though soon it will be a VFAQWGASOADA page – Very Frequently Asked Question Without Getting A Sniff Of A Decent Answer.

    Why doesn’t Exact Search work any more?
    Whose decision was it to remove the facility?
    (Or is it the case that the function is broken and nobody knows how to set it up again?)
    Why was the decision made to remove the facility?
    Why are we, who subscribe to Ancestry every year (in my case 10 years at least), being ignored in our questions regarding Exact Search?
    Do you actually care? (I think that the answer to this one is becoming more and more self evident.)

    Number of times the question about Exact Search has been put to Ancestry by me, AND IGNORED


  2. WW

    You question has NOT-repeat NOT- been ignored. You have been told *exactly* where to post the question to get the answers you seek- and a Blog article on a totally unrelated subject is *NOT* the place.

    So either post you question where you’ve been told it will be answered or SHUT UP about it on unrelated articles.

    No one who has the answers is responsible for answering questions in a non-related Blog article- get it?

  3. My Name

    I have visited this website for the first time…had to enter in my credit card number…and found NOTHING more than what I entered in!!! My GRANDMOTHER told me more than this site!! I was SOOOO disappointed!! Now, I have to remember to cancel whatever this is that I have “joined”!!!!!!!!!!

  4. kim

    I just signed up and am so confused! My father has passed so I can not ask him anything and it is his line I am trying to trace. Why cant i get to his birth certificate to find my grandfathers real/full name and my grandmothers maiden name. It seems the info i am getting back is what I am entering in…..please tell gwenyth it is not as easy as it looks

  5. Not all birth certificates are online- or even indexes to them. Was he born after 1930? If so there may not be much avaliable. Is he in the SSDI? Are his parents dead? If so you could get a copy of his Social Security Card application form.

  6. Janet L

    4 Kim
    You won’t find birth certificates here unless a user has put it in their tree. Try the Latter Day Saints site Family Search they have a lot of info that was helpful to me, and it’s free. Did you try your father’s death certificate, they usually list the parents names.

    Back to the show—
    I would have liked to know more about the Barbadas connection. Where did the family come from before then,why did they go there in the first place? I can only guess the trail was cold and there was no info available.
    Her love for her family was very touching. I can only hope when I am gone my sons will have fond memories of me.

  7. Wicked Witch

    Oh Andy, what a disappointment! And how rude of you. Abuse (as with swearing)is totally unnecessary and unacceptable in polite society.

    I have gone down the other routes and got nothing; why would I want to carry on doing that again and again?

    The subject of Exact Search along with the subject of the removal of (or difficulty in finding) Old Search, has been going on for months. Ancestry have chosen to ignore me on the subject(s) when I have contacted them. Perhaps you could tell me what I should do instead?

  8. Wicked Witch

    A RESPONSE FROM ANCESTRY. (And how polite – Andy may do well to take note.)


    To: wickedwitch
    Subject: Exact Search on
    Date: Sat, 2 Apr 2011 00:40:12 +0000


    I wanted to personally invite you to the thread on the boards regarding exact search. For what it is worth, I was not involved in the historical decisions and implementations around new and old search functionality, so my ego won’t be bruised via criticism. I am, however, helping to shape the future functionality and so I am very interested in having a constructive dialog about how exact search should and shouldn’t work so we can make improvements. Your input would be appreciated.

    I’m also happy to correspond over email, if you prefer that forum to the boards.

    Thanks, and have a nice weekend,


    Search Product Management


    An extract from John’s response on the Board as follows:

    “I am in the process of evaluating how exact search does and should work and would welcome other specific examples (different in type than this one) of where exact search doesn’t do as some might expect. Please be sure to include enough details for me to reproduce your query (including a URL, too).”

    For anyone wishing to find this Board (instigated yesterday), you need to paste the link below into your address bar

    A note to people using As I stated in a previous post, Ancestry sells itself as an international resource. However, the blogs shown on the Home Page of do not appear on the Home Pages of its related sites of (UK), or (Australia), or (Canada) – and it is records from these places where the problem of Exact Search really shows up.

  9. Carol A. H.

    Wicked Witch:

    This may sound crazy, and you may have already done it, but…have you tried to talk with a live warm body at 1-800-262-3787? They now have extended hours and on Saturday, too. It’s a toll free call. They really are polite and do try to help. If you don’t like the first person, call another time and get another person. Good luck.

  10. Wicked Witch

    Carol #9

    Thanks for the suggestion. I am not sure it would work from England, but anyway I have replied directly to John Bacus with specific examples of the problem, and there was a thread set up yesterday on the Message Board which I shall follow with interest.

  11. Wicked Witch


    Due to the very positive response I have received from John Bacus, I shall not be hi-jacking any more blogs – for the foreseeable future (hopefully never, but to quote James Bond “Never Say Never Again”).

    Here’s hoping for a good outcome and a return to the excellent quality of search we used to enjoy from Old Search /Exact Search.

    Keep your eyes on the Message Board.

  12. WW Re: #7

    You are a fine one to mention abuse after the bad manners you displayed and the way you abused the Blog trying to make each article about you search problems. You were advised where to go to get the answers and still wouldn’t do it…
    and where are you getting the answers now- right where you were originally told you’d get them.

    Andy can be very polite when the situation calls for it- in this particular situation it didn’t.

  13. maggylil


    Don’t you see what you are doing yourself Mr Hatchett? Or are you so blinded by the reflection of your own self importance? I have read back through what WW said and she/he only wanted ACOM to acknowledge that there was a problem and do something about it. From what I have read on the blogs over the past 6 months and more, this searching problem is one that quite a lot of people have brought up (you will even find a couple of entries from me last year) and ACOM have had plenty of opportunity to address it. Now that they have acknowledged it appropriately and are doing it in a way that WW is obviously satisfied with, WW is stepping back to let them sort it out.

    I suggest that you take a leaf out of WW’s book or follow your own advice in #2.

  14. Again, Thank you Ancestry. I just found out that my great-grandfather had a brother. Through the links to other trees and stories and all of the information given on “Who Do You Think You Are? series, I have been able to find more information. The series is exceptional, and I look forward to more stories. I didn’t have to know what I was looking for, I just had to start looking. I am grateful to Ancestry. I just found more cousins.

  15. BEE

    Kim,there is a lot of information out there. As someone advised, if it is your only source, a copy of your father’s SS application is worth the $27 it will cost you and well worth it to find the names of your grandparents, but if you know where your father was born, you should be able to find the information in the vital records of that town. If the family didn’t move, you might even find marriage records for your grandparents, as well as the names of other children. If you find one that was born before 1930, look for that person on that census. Then follow all the names back to the 1920 census, and continue back as far as you can.
    You are right – it isn’t always easy, but it’s very rewarding. Good luck

  16. BobNY

    Dear John Bacus,

    Are you the one that has caused the entire Ancestry Improvement board to disappear. Not only is your thread referenced above gone, so are every other thread that ever existed.

    Can you find out what happened please.

  17. Jeff Record

    I guess I had thought this was the blog to comment on the Paltrow show for WDYTYA….. seems to be more of a customer complaint forum. Whatever. Good luck to all parties concerned. I hope I am in the right place?

    The show for Gwyneth Paltrow was easily the most disappointing episode in some otherwise wonderful genealogical research stories. Basically, the lesson seems to have been “use ship’s passenger lists”, but the story itself bobbed and weaved through too many aspects of Ms. Paltrow’s family. It seems the shows’ formats proceed in a more organized fashion when they “follow the line”. In this shows case we received a lot of direction about the Danner side of Gwyneth’s tree – only to be thrown somewhat unexpectedly pall mall into her father’s ancestry. Too much!!! Appreciating Ms. Paltow’s desire to know both her paternal and maternal lines is great, but it’s really hard to do that in an hour’s worth of television. To me the show was too unfocused, the content for ideas with regard to research was lacking. Ms. Paltrow’s commitment to understanding her past seemed a bit whimsical. I do hope that she found some of the answers that she was looking for, but more so I hope it will open her mind to questioning her ancestry even further down the road.

    I am looking forward to Ms. Judd’s story next week. All good wishes to those at who really do try to do their very best to put out a good product. Hey guys, you will never please everyone – but thanks for trying.

  18. ManorBorn

    Every time I see a post from Wicked Witch or Tony Cousins for that matter, I get the urge to hum “If I Only Had a Brain”.

    Wicked Witch is taking a page out of Sarah Palin’s kook-book, posting positive feedback (#14) to her own idiotic posts.

  19. Long Time Researcher

    I agree with Jeff #18. The Paltrow episode was extremely disappointing. Every research center Gwnyeth visited was prepared for her arrival and had all documents readied in advance. Her surprise and responses came as being scripted and at no time did I detect genuine surprise or amazement at what her researchers found.

    The Barbados portion of the episode left glaring questions. I ended up yelling at the television. Why did the researcher and Gwnyeth immediately go to only her great-grandmother’s baptism entry? and only to Rebecca’s death entry and not the fathers? What about other family members on the Island? Did her researcher look for that information? Where where the great-great grandparents buried? Why was the family originally on Barbados, how long had they been there and where did they come from? Were there cousins, aunts, uncles, other sisters or brothers who were alive or dead on Barbados? As for the ship manifest. That tells an amateur researcher nothing if they don’t know what they are looking for. Try to find Johann or Josef Kolar on a ship manifest and there will be 50 of them. presented this portion of the episode in a very bad manner and displayed faulty research methods to the people they are attempting to entice to their website.

    This was a boring and stilted episode which was presented to the public as rehearsed and scripted without any seriousness on the part of Gwyneth. Whimsical isn’t even a fair description of Gwyneth overall. Her reactions were dead like except for the discovery of the several Rabbis on her father’s side of the family. Then she became whimsical and squeezed out a few rehearsed tears.

    …and Blythe acted like she could care less at the family discoveries.

    This episode rated a D- .

  20. BCarol

    I think this episode reveals why following so many different lines can really dilute the effectiveness of the show. So many times on the opinion threads for the shows folks often complain that there’s just too much focus on one line. If you check out the Lionel Ritchie and Vanessa Williams comments, you’ll see examples of that.

    I think that this episode reveals that following so many ancestors in a one hour episode can have your head spinning and leaves you with a feeling of incomplete research.

    I am a great fan of the show and actually appreciate a less than focused show because it confirms what I’ve often replied to on those other threads.

    One thing about this episode was the wonderful things that Gwyneth learned about her father’s religious ancestors. Not “famous” people but deeply soulful people. I would like to learn more about them.

    The Barbados connection was also very interesting. There are definitely two separate episodes to this one. My son’s ancestors have Barbados connections but as seamen delivering goods there. Would have been great to know how her ancestors landed in Barbados. Their names sounded distinctly “Pennsylvania Dutch.” Were they missionaries? Traders?

    All in all a decent episode but, as others have said, one that leaves you wanting to know more.

  21. BEE

    As with all the other episodes, I enjoyed this one for what it was.
    Not everyone has the same interest in the subject of genealogy as those of us who live on ancestry.
    When my sister started the search for information about our family, her only interest was learning about our grandparents and great-grandparents who emigrated from their homeland.
    As BCarol said, others have asked “what about the other side of the family?” I thought this was a good balance.
    Gwyneth had questions about her family’s past, and those questions were answered for her. If that was enough for her, why should we question it.

  22. Winlee

    Oh please Twinkie boy #2,5,12,13 you have some nerve telling someone not to h/jack these blogs for solving their problems with anc., thats all you do is dribble on about yourself and your so called wealth of knowledge about anc. and computers. I do agree with you though,(I can’t believe I said that) these blogs about the wdytya show should be used for just that, but you shouldn’t be the one telling people what to do, nor I. I started reading these blogs a while back to read about what people thought of the show….not to read about the goings on of you. And yes I’m guilty of coming on this blog to talk about something other than the show, but only to give you a piece of my mind. So if you want to give out your E/address for any newbie who wants to go to your site and delve into your wealth of knowledge, go for it, but other than that give it a rest.

  23. Bailey

    Uhh..I wanted to comment on the show? It looks like very few people are interested in maintaing an on-topic thread, here…

    I liked the episode because other episodes focus maddeningly on just one thread, and it’s fun to see someone jump around the way I sometimes do when another trail runs cold.

    Enjoying the show. The petty bickering on blog threads? Not so much.

  24. deedlegirl

    Jeanie, I really have enjoyed all of the episodes. The only thing I would like to see is a place on here where we could look over the family tree’s that have been shown on each episode. I imagine that there is alot that isn’t shown due to the time limit. Thanks

  25. Laurie Velett

    I agree with Long Time Researcher. There were so many questions left unanswered. I get that the researchers were unable to find more info, but even just acknowledging the remaining mysteries would be more realistic than ignoring them completely. I do love this show and wish there were many more episodes each season!

  26. Sherry

    I have learned to take Andy with a grain of salt, love is blind and he is obviously in love with ancestry; seemingly in his eyes ancestry can do no wrong.

    Andy, the witch was not being rude, just persistent. You were being rude. I guess this goes back to the love is blind analogy…… are passionate about defending your partner!

    I am willing to give the newly opened category a try (actually have already posted) but to no avail I am certain. I honestly do not like to be negative but search has been an issue for many years now and most, if not all requests, have been ignored.

    The fact remains that exact search is not exact and we are being treated as idiots. There use to be an exact search. I have been with ancestry long enough to remember this as an extremely useful tool.

    I only wish that ancestry allow its own users to determine their own search criteria. Exact is Exact……..period. If I cannot find someone in exact, I will go the other route but please allow me to continue the way it has been for years. If it isn’t broke, please do not fix it. Allow me the option of NOT having the excess baggage when I do an exact search.

    Many thanks.

  27. Sherry Re: #28

    I only defend Ancestry when I think they are getting a bum wrap, at other times I’m one of their more vocal critics.

    For over two years I’ve been on Ancestry about Exact should be exact and begged them for an in depth discussion on the entire search matter and am hopeful that this new initiative on their part will lead somewhere other than them redefining words to suit their needs vs. what the word actually means. One thing I’ve noticed about John is that he tends to use less “wiggle” words and that can only be a good thing.

  28. ManorBorn

    #28 Sherry, aka Wicked Witch, aka maggylil.

    How many more personalities are you going to bring out?

  29. Mary

    I confess I missed the first run of the show because I went to see an elderly aunt. She has seemed to be mildly interested in family history but is never on the computer. I was so pleased to find that she had been watching WDYTYA and when I arrived at her home she had a stack of photos waiting for me. She was particularly looking forward to seeing Gwyneth. Personally, I am a big fan.

    I appreciated the family finding their spiritual roots. To ignore religion when researching genealogy would be a huge mistake. Many important documents are tied to the family’s religious background. This area is often overlooked.

    One suggestion I have is to be careful with saying that the researcher has to go to a location. It makes sense for the show but many people can’t go to these places. In one of these shows, please suggest that people join a historical and genealogical group in the area they are researching. I have received a great deal of help from these organizations. Also, after notifying an organization about your family, they are more likely to include the family in a newsletter or publication.

    I just do not understand all the issues with the search. My searches have excellent results. Please do not dominate this blog, with an issue that many of us consider a non-issue.

  30. Tom H

    It wouldn’t bother me any if Ancestry had to appoint a moderator for this forum. This isn’t TOPIX folks.

  31. Kathryn Susbauer

    This week’s episode reinforced research I was already dealing with related with migration due to religious reasons and trying to solve mysteries behind photos. I waited until my grandmother died to start entering her genealogy into the computer and getting on ancestry and if I had done it while she had been alive some of what I have found that was known to the family years ago but connected one line also now connects other lines on her adoptive families’ tree to her husband’s family tree distantly.
    Quakers and Freewill Baptists run in my tree depending on the lines and the side of the family along with Methodist and others.

  32. Brenda Humphrey

    This was easily my favorite episode. I don’t really look at this series as a way to learn genealogy techniques, but rather as an opportunity to explore ways of looking at problems. More importantly, I find that most of the stories reinforce the reason that I study family history, to find the humanity behind the cold, sterile records.
    Maybe because Paltrow is just such a genuinely sweet person, I found her story incredibly powerful. The insight she gained into her g-grandmother’s lack of warmth with her family as a result of overwhelming loss, and the delightful recognition of the love for her father that she found in her rabbi ancestor’s loving description of his father were compelling and moving.

  33. Netzband

    This episode was a good reminder that we can’t judge peoples’ actions or understand them if we don’t know where they’ve been and what they’ve gone through.

    Have you all watched the extra exclusive clips for this episode, available on the web site? In one, Gweneth visits with cousins and I learned more about the Barbados family. In another, we see how she found out about her father’s family. Because they did not include those two clips in the actual show, it left me with a feeling that something was missing. Once I viewed those clips, the whole episode came together in a much clearer fashion.
    I think they need to re-edit this one.

  34. Anna

    Please explain to me how they cannot have live customer support of any type! I’m locked out of the system — they say I’m logged on elsewhere – which I’m not. And I can’t reset it online or reach anyone to take care of this. Very very very poor service!

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