Posted by Ancestry Team on May 12, 2012 in Who Do You Think You Are?

When Jason Sudeikis set off to uncover the fate of his grandfather, whose story was a mystery to him, he probably didn’t expect to find three generations of fatherless sons, but that’s exactly what he discovered on Who Do You Think You Are? Included was an immigrant ancestor, Sudeikis’s great-great-great-grandfather, whose story unfolded with the help of passenger lists as family members came to America to start a new life. But tragically, his life was cut short by a mine explosion – an event that reverberated through the family tree for generations. Who Do You Think You Are? is sponsored by and airs Fridays at 8/7c on NBC. Missed the episode? Watch it online.

Events and decisions in a single family member’s life can have long-term effects, sometimes affecting family for countless decades. And the outcomes can be good or bad. A decision to immigrate to a new country may bring with it opportunities not available back home. The loss of a job can be the trigger that launches a small, family-run business. Learning more about family history stories provides insight into the people they became. It may even shed a bit of light on who we are today, too.


  1. Kathy

    I see echoes of sometimes scary things going through several generations in my own family tree.

  2. Wanda

    This was a very interesting program. I hope the family continues to research the grandmother’s line and also look it to what became of Joseph’s children and widow after he was killed. The should all come back to Pennsylvania to visit the area where Joseph was killed and experience the mine site together.

  3. Nina

    I enjoy the show a great deal and try to watch every week. The episode last night made me start to think we are looking for my husband grandfather and we know he was born in 1892 or close to but did not show up until 1930 census and then on two different ones.

  4. D.J.

    It would be so much easier if old records of divorce could be researched online. Censuses have left me with questions about male ancestors leaving their families. Female ancestors are listed as married living with their older children, but no longer with spouse !

  5. Sara O

    I find Who Do You Think You Are? very interesting. Not only do you see what happeened to peoples families, but you get a history lesson. One that seems more interesting than history was in school.

  6. Usually I really like thie show, but the research was wrong in this episode. Stanley Sudeikis doesn’t appear in 1920 in Chicago, but he does appear on the 1930 Census in Chicago (with wife and Stanley Jr.). He also immigrated in 1913 according to the Census. There is also a birth certificate of a daughter of Stanley and Emma Sudeikis from 1921.

    How did this fall through the cracks?

  7. lorraine

    Love the show…I really wish finding these dissappearing grandparents was as easy as portrayed. I thought Mr. Sudekis showed very good class in this program. I am sure this was not easy learning about the men in his ancestry and then telling his father. Also, I felt there was an issue between them. ? Perhaps this will bring them closer.

  8. Mike

    I enjoy the show…but us peasants have interesting lineage as well as the celebs. The very people that pay to use the sight, should have been chosen as well, if it wasn’t for us, there would be no sight.

  9. Jill

    The point of the show is that if people watch the celebs they will get interested in looking up their own genealogy. I have some pretty interesting characters in my family, but I doubt anyone would want to watch me search out my ancestors. 🙂 Even my sister wouldn’t watch that.

    It’s a great show, I’ve learned some tricks from it for sure!

  10. I look forward to this show every week. Each person on the show seems to realize that they are a little bit of what came before them and that circumstances from the past can effect their lives.
    Enjoy the show.


  11. Joey

    I’ve read that the show has been canceled for next year. I LOVE THIS SHOW!!! Please bring it back! It is so enjoyable to watch these searches – I would even watch a 2-hour episode if it provided more details on the searches and different documents. Very informative as well as entertaining.

  12. Mary Shelton

    I have Family Tree Maker 2011.
    What are the differences in 2011 and 2012?
    I haven’t found a listing that includes the changes so that I can compare.

  13. Tammy Eckert

    My husband & I really enjoy watching “Who Do You Think You Are?”. This is what I call “reality tv”. I love how you can make the viewer feel that you’re invited along on these trips! I’ve learned to search different venues, gotten great search tips & techniques …just finding new trails you can take with your own family tree. The mystery, intrigue and yes, sometimes disappointments when searching your past…in trying to figure out who we think we are can make a difference going forward in our own lives. Luckily we are here to explore this wonderful thing called life, and isn’t it fun to investigate your own family mystery? REAL people finding the amazing awesomeness of their own roots. Thank-you We hope we see more to come!

  14. JoAnn Stringer

    I watch WDYTYA every week; I’m sad to hear it’s been cancelled by NBC. I hope you can move it to another network such as Bravo or OWN. As far as this particular episode, as a descendant of Lithuanian immigrants, I was hoping to see Jason go to Lithuania to research his ancestors there. It felt as if it was cut short. Overall, I really enjoy the series; I don’t mind that it is about celebrities because I have learned about new resources that I didn’t know existed. Please try to find a new network or webcast!

  15. Annmarie

    Love this show. It’s help me look in places I never thought of…. and if you ever want just an ordinary everyday person, I’d love to volunteer myself! 🙂 Just found out about a month ago, my maternal grandmother and her ancestors were Romany Gypsy! WOW! I had an older cousin confirm this and they (my ancestors) are listed as HAWKERS, HORSE DEALERS, EARTHENWARE, etc. And I didn’t know my great great maternal grandparents came over… until I found them on the 1910 (or was it 1920?) census (have to look). I lost track of them in England! But still a mystery to me… my maternal great grandmother… and her first husband (I am descendent of her second husband)… he came in through Boston, she in New York, but I found church records of a daughter born in Pittsburgh…all before 1900! In 1900, she is living in New York, married to my maternal great grandfather. So, what happened to her first husband? On the census, states she had 5 children, only 3 were living. I knew about one of them dying coming over, but the one I found born in Pittsburgh, did not find anything further on her after that and she is NOT on the 1900 census (she was born 1898/99?) But I’d love to find out more about my Romany Gypsy family. I think that is so exciting! Here I thought I’d find royalty (and I still may!)… but this is more exciting! 🙂 And my paternal great grandmother was born in Ireland, her husband was to have been born in Copenhagen, Denmark. Story has it… he wanted to go back to Denmark, she did not. She stayed in New York City with her son and dau. I found them on the 1930 census… but can not find any of them on the 1920!!! UGH!!! She is listed as Widowed in 1930. Their son was born in Philly, their dau (my grandmother) was born in Brighton Beach, New Jersey, and they ended up in New York City. So, lots of mystery in my family. Maybe I can get back up to New York soon and see what the NYPL has held on it’s shelves! Great show… keep up the great work!

  16. Mary Beth Marchant

    Might as well quit the hype since this show was not renewed. As for myself, I watched the first couple of shows and then quit. I’m not interested in all the so-called celebrities. We “common po folks” can’t afford to fly all over the country and have experts find documents that we did not have to look for at all. Maybe if some common folks were highlighted once in a while, the show would have been renewed. At least, now Ancestry can go back to adding new content instead of trumpeting a show that not many people watched.

    Or maybe you could have some of us common folks let you know what we are looking for and maybe your experts could find it for us for free?? No, I suppose not.

  17. Annmarie

    Oh, my step father’s cousin is Jason Alexander… does being related to an actor by marriage qualify me? LOL! (Jason played on SEINFIELD … George!) My Step father and my step brother.. OMG! They all look alike… he is related through my step father’s mother’s family (she was a survivor of the Halocaust. She only told me a small bit, but would not talk about it… and she only told me when I came back from a Med Cruise and I brought her a bible back from Israel… I never knew!)

  18. Martha Kelley

    Why has Who Do You Think You Are? not been renewed?
    Most all the comments I have read on the Blogs,
    are very positive. I love the show and feel that the family history is well researched and ideas are given on the research techniques. I have learned many new places to research my family names.
    It is interesting to see celebritie’s family searched out. I also feel that the everyday researcher could be featured in these episodes, especially those with a good story to tell, like me!
    Please let me know why the show was cancelled, when it obviously was very successful.
    Thank You, Martha Kelley

  19. Peter Bush

    Let me add my voice to the chorus of commenters decrying the shoddy research and analysis for the Jason Sudeikis episode of WDYTYA.

    More than half of that episode revolves around two hypotheses: 1) that Jason’s great-grandfather, Stanley Sudeikis Sr., abandoned his wife and son in Chicago and married another woman in Bridgeport, Connecticut without obtaining a divorce from his first wife, in the process lying about his marital status on the Connecticut marriage license application, and 2) that Jason’s great-great grandfather was Joseph Sudeikis, a miner in Schuykill County, Pennsylvania, who was killed in a 1901 mine accident involving a gas explosion. Much of the emotional impact of the episode hinges on Jason’s reaction to learning about these incidents and his reflection on how they may have affected subsequent generations of his family.

    Trouble is, these hypotheses may be false. At the very least, they were not convincingly proved by the evidence presented in the show.

    To be fair, the experts and researchers interviewed in the show qualified their responses and comments, as you would expect professional historians and genealogists to do. However, the writers and producers of the show, and Jason himself, showed no similar restraint and seemed to accept without question the truth of the two hypotheses outlined above.

    As other commenters have noted, the abandonment hypothesis is largely discredited by two important records that were curiously not mentioned in the show even though they are readily available on 1) the birth record of Michalina Sudeikis, daughter of Stanley Sudeikis and Michalina Bielska, born on 20 January 1921 in Chicago, and 2) the 1930 census record showing Stanley Sudeikis living in Chicago with his wife Michalina and son Stanley Jr.

    In addition, I question why other documents that would shed light on the abandonment hypothesis were not produced and discussed, including Stanley Sudeikis’ death record and burial record (according to, his wife Michalina aka Emma was buried in St. Casimir Cemetery in Chicago, with her sister and her family, but there is no listing in Findagrave for Stanley). Chicago city directories for the period after Stanley is alleged to have married a second wife in Connecticut would also be instructive. These records are not available online but surely could have been found with the budget and phalanx of researchers available to ProGenealogists, the self-described “official researchers” for, who conduct the research for WDYTYA.

    What makes the whole thing disturbing to me, in addition to the questionable quality of research and analysis, is the severity of the allegations against Stanley Sudeikis Sr. After all, abandonment, bigamy and perjury are crimes. Responsible genealogists would not make public allegations of this nature against persons, living or dead, without solid evidence to back them up.

    As for the second hypothesis – that Stanley Sudeikis Sr. of Chicago was the son of Joseph Sudeikis, the Pennsylvania miner – the evidence and analysis presented were equally weak. It’s true that Stanley’s marriage record in Chicago identified him as the son of Joseph Sudeikis and Maryanna Gecaite. It’s also true that Joseph and Mary Sudeikis living in Schuykill County, Pennsylvania in 1900 probably had a son Stanislaw, as evidenced by the 1900 ship passenger list displayed on the show. But here’s the critical, unanswered question: how do we know that Stanislaw son of Joseph and Mary living in Pennsylvania was the same person as Stanley who later married and lived in Chicago? The sad thing is that there are numerous records that might have proved that link, such as the death record of Mary Sudeikis and the marriage records of their other children, any of which might have mentioned Mary’s maiden name. That would have been the clincher. Surely these records could and should have been located and discussed on the show.

    My conclusion: the Jason Sudeikis episode was good entertainment, bad genealogy.

  20. BEE

    I agree – while I have enjoyed every single episode of “Who Do You Think You Are”, I’ve sometimes questioned certain conclusions, although I would think that there was a more thorough search that just wasn’t shown.
    I can speak from a great deal of experience – no matter how unusual a person’s name, there is someone else with the very same name, and similar history.
    It doesn’t matter if it’s a family that can trace it’s family back to the earliest arrivals, or recent immigrants. More than once, I’ve found two different families with many of the children having the same names.
    I know of at least three men from my grandfather’s village with the same name, all born about the same time, all emigrated within a year or two of each other, and all living for a while in the same state. They were all related – somehow.

  21. Andrea

    When I watched Jason Sudeikis learn of his family story, it really stuck with me. His journey is quite similar to my own. The circumstancesof his grandparents separation was almost identical to the circumstances of my divorce. Down to the detail of his grandfather never meeting his father. His great-grandfather abandoned his family and started another. My grandfather did the same thing. His great-great grandfather was an immigrant who worked in a mine and died in an accident while working the mine. My 3rd great grandfather was also an immigrant who came to america and became a fireman and died in an accident while fighting a fire. We also had family that came from the same neighborhoods. Even one of his uncles lived a block away from me at one time. His story really got to me.

  22. Christy Kestler

    Peter Bush’s post on May 16 is spot on. I found the same records because there was something not quite right about the show’s “professional genealogist” skipping the 1930 census and other records that are EASILY available at and Shame on, NBC, and any other person who participated in creating a fictional family connection and acusing an innocent man of abandoning his family. If we lay people can view the records at and and find the truth in a matter of minutes, surely the “professional genealogists” did. Was there no effort to research the naturalization records of these people? Those are usually rich with information…For the offenses of this episode, if no other, the folks producing the show should be ashamed. Maybe cancelling the show was due to such abuses?…Surely Jason Daniel Sudeikis and his family were told the TRUTH!!! How sad if they weren’t, and how shameful if they were, but participated in the lie that has probably hurt the Sudeikis family of Connecticutt. Tsk! Tsk!

  23. Peter Bush

    To Christy and others upset with the Jason Sudeikis episode — if you haven’t already seen it, look at Jim Owston’s blog, The Lineal Arboretum, at He challenges the bigamy and abandonment hypothesis in a very thorough and persuasive manner. Makes sure to read the comments as well.

  24. Jayna

    I was looking for a way to contact the WDYTYA producers or the Sudeikis family themselves, for the same reasons mentioned above by Peter and Sol, among others. I am so saddened to think that the
    Sudeikis family in both Kansas and Connecticut might be laboring under the false beliefs that were put forth on this episode as being fact. We can only hope that they do the responsible thing and contact the family to inform them of the errors.

    I think if anyone had encouraged Jason to look deeper into the records available in Chicago, he would have saved himself a disappointing and error-filled trip to Connecticut. Once he got to CT, the genealogists assumed he had correct information, and allowed him to pursue the wrong line. I was aghast at how easily things went wrong in Jason’s research, and sorry to see that nobody tried to set things right before the show was aired. I don’t know if it was intentional (to get an emotional reaction from Jason and/or the audience), or if it was simply shoddy research, but either case is reprehensible. If is to be taken seriously as a reliable research tool, then they need to be a little more careful about the product they present to the public, in whatever form it may be presented.

    I personally enjoy WDYTYA, and will be sorry to see it discontinued. I think it has helped demystify genealogical research for many people, allowing them to see that they can find information about their own lineage, and that it’s a rewarding and exciting endeavor. I hope the show will revisit this particular episode and correct the grievous errors that occurred in it.

  25. Pat Hoff

    I was very interested in the Sudeikis family because my great grand father was supposidly the father to 27 children and had 3 wives. I have only found one wife (my great grandmother) but have never found him with anyone else or any other children. With so little to go on and only family folklore, I found that Jason was able to find all sorts of things with even less information. Then, I read all the other comments and I wonder – is there really a way to find out what happened when all the people involved are all dead?! Even all his grand children are all now dead. Any suggestions?

Comments are closed.