Posted by Ancestry Team on May 19, 2012 in Who Do You Think You Are?

Known for her Southern cooking and hospitality, celebrity chef Paula Deen searched for more information about her Southern roots on the season finale of Who Do You Think You Are? Better still, Deen picked up a new skill along the way – she found out just what you have to do to turn records and history into a family’s personal story.

Here’s how it happened: Deen was trying to reconstruct an ancestor’s life following the Civil War. So she turned to tax records from the 1870s. Individually those records didn’t seem to say much. But once Deen created a handwritten grid, the tax information began to tell a story. Noting the number of hired hands, acres and value of the land and personal estate over the years, Deen saw a rapid financial decline in 1874. Plotting her ancestor’s fortunes against what was going on in the U.S. at the time, it was apparent that his financial situation took a drastic downturn during the country’s depression.

But Deen didn’t dwell on the negative. Instead she chose to draw strength from these past events and look to the future. It’s a lesson for everyone who dives into their family history – learn from it and grow. is a sponsor of Who Do You Think You Are? Missed the episode? Watch it online here.


  1. Sue

    I have been trying to decide wether to put anymore information or pictures on line. You let people subscribe and have access to all people’s. Trees and they dd not have anything. One line and some who have these trees do not even answer requests. I am really tired of supplying information to these people. As I have been saying money is the king!

  2. Monika

    # 1 Sue –This is the age of entitlement my dear! In a previous blog (that was subject related) a person said “If someone does not want me to take their pictures, they should not put them on their tree.” Translated into English: If you want to create your tree to your liking you better accept that all that’s yours is mine!” Best make your trees private and you won’t have that problem. A private tree still offers you all the advantages has to offer, without the disadvantages. Exception: when you invite people onto your private tree, has now eliminated the “save” button. So, if you are not very selective about whom you invite onto your tree, this person is going to save your pictures/stories to his/her desktop, and reintegrate that picture or story into her tree as the original contributor of this picture or story. (VERY tacky, in my opinion!) I do not know why the generation of the age of entitlement thinks that the main purpose you are creating your tree on is to share with them! But that is the mindset with which this generation was raised.

    Now back to Paula Deen, one of my favorite TV personalities. I missed the show last night and hope to have an opportunity to see it in the future. Paula and I have the same favorite food: BUTTER! 🙂

  3. MsWinston

    First of all , what do these two messages have to do with Who Do YOu Think You Are? Second, IMO genealogy has always been a cooperative effort between people to share information, not to hoard it like a miser. If someone doesn’t care to share, then they should make their’s a private tree and get on with their life. I put my pictures and family stories out there for ALL, and have met people who have supplied me with additional information and I them. IMO there is nothing of an “entitlement mentality” about this….

  4. BobNY

    #3 MsWinston

    First, second and third of all, what does your message have to do with Who Do You Think You Are?

  5. Linda J. Barnes

    Loved the Paula Deen episode and as a “Yank” it was interesting to see how much EVERYONE suffered during the CW and its aftermath. Paula said it all at the end, “This was a war that never should have happened.” It’s just so sad that slavery couldn’t have been ended without further bloodshed. Lord knows there was already so much suffering here. My husband’s Gr/Gr/Grandfather was a young Union Infantry soldier who almost lost his life during a battle and then again afterward from typhoid, a common combination for soldiers of both sides throughout that terrible war.

    I’d also like to add that it’s a shame that this program is being canceled by shortsighted NBC who wants to devote more air time to more mindless low life sit coms… We are praying that a more intelligent station will continue this series. It’s so much more than an hour of celebrities’ family histories, it’s the story of all of America. Some one out there, please pick up this series!!!

  6. Susan Means

    I can’t believe that this show is going to be canceled. It breaks my heart. I find this program so important to the history of this country. We always say that history repeats its self and I have found that we have all have family history that seems to repeat. How much we can learn from those lessons. (Of, course I haven’t had 12 to 19 children, thank heaveans).

    Last nights program was so interesting since I had family on both sides in the C/W. What I found amazing was that Paula didn’t know that her family owned slaves. However, I know the feeling of finding out that my GGG Grandfather gave his slaves to each of his children upon his death. It made me sad, but it was the world view at the time. And, yes I would have liked to talk to him, but I don’t think he would have listened. That is a family trait.

    Please let us continue to enjoy this program!!!

  7. Dru

    I didn’t realize that the genealogy series is being cancelled. I am really disappointed because that series takes us in the direction of the truth about American history and the American people.

  8. MsWinston

    Okay, now to get back to Paula Deen. I almost missed this episode but am glad I decided to watch it. I found it much more moving than I anticipated. Working at a NPS Civil War battlefield park as a volunteer, I know how precious family letters written in war-time are to those who currently have them in their possession. I also know that while not everyone in the south owned slaves, it seems to be a common misconception (or more likely a wish) that “my family had nothing to do with slavery,” as Paula herself put it. The timeline that lead from the end of the war to the death by suicide of her ancestor was very helpful and dramatic — it set us up for his death by his own hand as a result of the depression of the 1870’s and, more than likely, the death of his eldest son in a war where they were on the losing side. I intend to use that sort of timeline in the future when pertinent information is available.

  9. BEE

    I am also disappointed that this series is being canceled. Although my immigrant ancestors only go back to the early 1900s, I have researched other families that go back almost to the Mayflower – families from Massachusetts to Missouri and beyond in all directions, on both sides of the Revolution and both sides of the Civil War.
    Like Paula, I found that the ancestors of various people I’ve researched owned slaves, even those of lowly means.
    It was interesting to see how much information she was able to find on her family without even leaving her state. The letters from the young soldier were so touching.
    We’ve learned lessons in Early American history, as well as the struggles of immigrants from more recent times from this program.
    While each program focused on a “star”, it was interesting to see that other members of their family were “ordinary” people.
    I hope this program will be shown on a different network with better research than what we’ve seen on some of the programs, especially the Jason Sudeikis story.

  10. Jennifer

    Like others, I hope this series is picked up somewhere. I appreciate seeing history come alive and have found multiple hints on furthering my own family history.

  11. Yvonne

    Can’t believe the show is cancelled!! We look forward to it each week. I’ve been researching the Reynolds branch in my tree and recently discovered roots in Milledgeville,GA, so was thrilled to see it on the show last week.
    And about sharing….I have relatives that I haven’t spoken to in years. They have the audacity to copy my tree and make theirs private. Shame on them for not even saying thanks. But I’m a better person who doesn’t mind sharing–have met wonderful genealogist that I’ve benefited from. What goes around comes around.
    Perhaps PBS or a cable station will pick up the show.

  12. Rhonda

    I didn’t get to see all the shows because they started it during basketball tourament time and the station that it was on showed them instead.
    I was surprised that she had never thought it possible of that happening. I searched for years for some kind of bad things that my family may have done, because I had been told how good they were and I just couldn’t see that being the case for all of them.
    Sorry that the show is being cancelled, it was a good show for beginners and offered tips for those that have been researching for years.
    PBS has one already, but they don’t travel really.

  13. Vera

    Perhaps this was just the season break and it will
    I had a great thing happen that may make you feel better about everyone seeing and taking off your photos and stories. I searched for 27 years for siblings of my husbands grandfather as his mother
    had stated in 1910 that she had bore 8 children and 4 were living. No one in the family knew of but
    two. This year a lady in CA wrote me that she was a
    descendant of the first child of that great granmother. This was a daughter living in the same
    county as others we knew of but in the 30’s they
    moved their entire family to Calif. I probably would never have found them without being a member of Ancestry as well as the new found cousin.
    Just a sample of success!

  14. John

    Why are people the show is being cancelled? Has such an announcement been issued. I know it is over for this season — but this is its third season — has something been said that it will not come back for a fourth season — starting presumably next Feb — the same time the first three series started.

  15. Kim S

    My mom who couldn’t get the show hasn’t been able to pull up the Paula Deen episode. NBC has stopped viewing of them after hers.

  16. bullislandsusie

    Am totally disappointed to read about this show’s cancellation and intend to put it in writing to NBC. For whatever good that will do.

    As for the Paula Deen show, I was SO disappointed that she started out researching her “Paul” side, but seemed to get side-tracked to the other relative.

    I am a Pauls, and have been stuck on Jacob Paul (M: Sophia Linton who died 1815 in Mathews,VA & he died 1810 in VA) for months now. Perhaps or NBC hit the same brick wall; considering how difficult I am finding it.

    We DVR’d all of the shows as well as the PBS series and when I heard “Paul” on the Paula Deen segment, my hopes SOARED, only to be dashed!

    Other than that teeny disappointment (sarcasm intended) we loved the show. Surely Ancestry, if not NBC, realized a tremendous spike in interest in genealogy? Hope it helps bring the show back.

  17. Bridget

    I am just reading this blog post now and am saddened to find out the show is being cancelled. I hope “Who do you think you are?” gets picked up by another network. If not, the show really sparked my interest in researching my family roots again this Winter.

    I went from having no information beyond my paternal grandfather to having gone back 5 generations. This is all thanks to the message boards and some very helpful users. coming from the “entitled” generation I see no reason to make my tree private because I want to help others the way I was helped and connect with family. I would hope other researchers felt the same way

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