Posted by Ancestry Team on March 8, 2012 in Who Do You Think You Are?

According to the family lore, professional football-great Jerome Bettis’s great-grandfather simply disappeared. End of story? Not on this week’s Who Do You Think You Are? Bettis starts his search with a death record and continues on his quest, discovering stories of strength and family members who were born into slavery. is a sponsor of the show, airing Friday nights at 8/7c on NBC. Plus visit starting Saturday morning to learn more about using death records in your research.


  1. Jane

    I have been attempting to record me family tree of which I am reasonably knowledgable by memory and my own personal records over time. However the website decided to put my brother as a partner to my mother then doubled up the entire family tree when I deleted him and added him to his proper location. I’m a gurst. This iss not a good advertisement. I will not coming back unless can clean up their act and prevent spineless hackers infesting my family tree online as they have in real life.

    • tthacker

      Jane, If you feel that you have had a security breach on your account, please contact toll free at 1-800-262-3787. We would be happy to help!

  2. Alan Stoneback

    My year on Ancestry is up on 1 April. I signed up for one year of US only so I wouldn’t lose my focus on my main objective, that is to find a way over my brick wall in my Weber line. I have countless European lines I could go crazy on but I have dead ends here. My Weber dead end is frustrating because the Pastor that buried Reuben Weber b 1806 in Macungie PA recorded who his parents were; Johannes Weber & Maria Stroh. I found a sister to Reuben in the Old Zionsville Reformed Record, Gertraut, but I can learn no more @ the parents. I’m torn..

  3. Catrina

    Hmmm. I thought the comments posted here were supposed to pertain to the above post – regarding this week’s episode of WDYTYA.

  4. scwbcm

    It would be nice if these were monitored. I am sure that ancestry can tell who posted the creepy first message. I am amazed and messages in other locations have not been deleted. Hacking is a serious issue to joke around with.

  5. scwbcm

    I think everything is fine on my side. Hopefully, this continues. Thanks for your work today.

  6. ray

    How was Jerome able to open his laptop on and go right to a death certificate? Why can’t I get to them too?

  7. Tom H

    “”How was Jerome able to open his laptop on and go right to a death certificate? Why can’t I get to them too?””

    Birth Marriage Death/Search Individual Titles/Kentucky Death Records 1852-1953/Abe Bougard

  8. I knew this was going to be a mistake… I wish there was an email address for a contact rather than a phone #… I KNOW when my father and mother and mother got married, in NEW YORK, I have seen the marriage certificate and yes, I may have had 2 glasses of wine already, but Jeez-us… WHY if I am entering the location as NEW YORK for the Location am I being directed to California Marriage records…???!!! I am not a complete dolt… this is so frustrating!!!

  9. Susan Re: #11

    One would have to see exactly what search parameters you were using, which search (OldSearch or NewSearch), which parameters were marked ‘exact’, etc. to say why you got the results you did.

    You have to remember how Ancestry views a search engine; i.e. to give the greatest number of possible matches.

    Of course, any right-thinking person knows that a search engine should return the fewest number of probable matches.

  10. I believe that would be performing a great “community service” if when an individual of color finds the names of ancestors carelessly spelled on census and other documents a comment would be added that notes that this is a common experience, not just to people of color, but to everyone who explores their ancestry. There are a number of misspellings and variant spellings of last names and first names in my family line. Additionally, many other groups (ethnicities) in during a bit of snobbery in the census process when the deputy marshals taking the census (or whoever was the enumerator) doesn’t care for their ethnicity. This was the experience of Irish, Italian, Spanish, Chinese, and French, among others. Additionally, it is not uncommon for people to hear I name and spell it phonetically. I can imagine that the enumerators could never have appreciated how important their work would become too genealogical research. As such, they were trying to get through their process as quickly as possible. All of my family lines have misspellings of both first and last names, every one of them!

    It also might be a good thing, since the U.S. Census asked about literacy, to report the overall percentage of literate versus illiterate responders. Jerome was rightly saddened that his great-great-grandfather’s mark, an “X” was witnessed by a person who could read and write. Please remember that the quality and universality of education experience today is a historically new phenomena. I may be wrong, but I seriously doubt if there has ever been a time in history when literacy has been so nearly universal as it is in North America today.

    I believe it is vitally important to recognize and appreciate the consequences of slavery. I also believe it is important not to lay every genealogical challenge faced by individuals of color to race prejudice and the consequences of slavery. For a variety of reasons it can be very difficult to move past the early 1800s in anyone’s genealogy. Slavery was a horror. It was an equal horror for every race that has ever been enslaved. The use of black slaves in America is a negative mark on our history. It is valuable to remember that there has always been slavery, and that slavery continues today. I admire and respect most of all those who overcome the consequences of ancestors having been enslaved. To hear Blair Underwood and Jerome Bettis speak so eloquently makes it clear, as does the presidency of Barack Obama, that while not eliminated the consequences of slavery have been ameliorated for those willing to work hard at building great lives.

    There is a principle called the Pareto Principle. It is also called the 80-20 rule. It simply states that 80% of the wealth will be held by 20% of the people and 20% of the people will hold 80% of the wealth. In a church, 80% of tithers will provide 20% of the money while 20% of tithers will provide 80% of the money. In the workplace. 20% of the people will do 80% of the work while 80% of the people will do 20% of the work. This principle holds true very largely across-the-board, as far as I understand. I believe that many researchers are surprised at the wealth of some generations in their family and how that wealth did not continue to them. Others may be amazed at the poverty endured. I some members of their family and be heartened by the success of later generations. This is part of the value of genealogical research.

    Ultimately, this could become a tremendous tool for healing, so I urge to consciously and intentionally make it widely known that misspellings were common throughout the ages and that it was not necessarily an intentional disrespect of any particular ethnicity, and that intentional disrespect, when it did occur, impacted many ethnicities. Please also make it known that literacy has improved for every generation of every ethnicity in the USA. We are not perfect, but we have come a long way!

  11. Sandi

    I watched Friday’s airing of Jerome Bettis’ search for his mother’s family line. It was very obvious that when he came across the document where his ancestor had to make his mark (X) and someone else wrote in his name that it saddened him a great deal. I want him to know that not everyone was able to read &/or write and some who were new to the USA couldn’t speak English. Many documents were made by those who couldn’t write, whether they were white, red, yellow, brown or black. It is not something to be sad about as it doesn’t really change the fact that his ancestors were strong willed, had deep rooted beliefs and ideals. We are all made up from the gene pool of our ancestral lines. Most women of that day couldn’t read or write, because it was believed that women didn’t need to know how to do those things as they were cared for by the man of the house, whether husband, father or other relative. I am so happy that things have changed for the better for all concerned.

  12. Davi Farr

    The show has been great until 3/16/2012

    you advertised Helen Hunt the start the repeat oh 1st episode what gives

  13. BEE

    I wondered why my DVR wouldn’t record last night, since it’s set to record “first-run” episodes.
    I guess they didn’t want to waste a new episode with all the “March Madness”, thinking everyone is a sports fan, so Martin Sheen’s Irish background fit in with the Feast of St. Patrick as well.

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