Posted by Kristie Wells on August 20, 2013 in Who Do You Think You Are?


Chris O’Donnell is a family man who takes after the best role model he could ever imagine — his own father. To honor his memory, Chris uses his Who Do You Think You Are? experience to learn more about his paternal line.

On tonight’s episode, he travels to St. Louis and Washington D.C. and finds men who fought for their country, but never stopped fighting for their families.  Along the way, Chris connects with his past in unique and personal ways. From reading his great-great-grandfather’s personal account of a devastating epidemic, to seeing incredible photos of his ancestors, to discovering rare service records — even finding a relic in the Smithsonian — Chris finds ties that bind him to a lasting legacy of courage, patriotism and devotion to family.

It’s a stirring episode you won’t want to miss. Watch tonight at 9|8c on TLC.


Previous Who Do You Think You Are? Episodes from Season 4:

Kristie Wells

Kristie is Ancestry's former Head of Global Social Media and Online Customer Engagement.


  1. Thomas Graham

    I absolutely loved the Park Ranger at Ft. McHenry he was animated and you could tell he was totally into it. At the end when he said “it’s Awesome” it reminded me of Jim Carey,. Fun to watch someone who just loves what they do. That guy has potential – Ranger suit and all.

  2. Annette

    Park Rangers are the greatest! I am a volunteer at a NPS visitor’s center and it is very rewarding. And Fort McHenry is a wonderful place to visit, especially in the summer when they have special programs. But, I have to say, I was so disappointed that O’Donnel didn’t even know where Ft McHenry was located, and said he didn’t know anything about the history of “The Star Spangled Banner.” He is a grown man with 5 children! What passes for education today?

  3. Jeff Record

    Overall a great program about the ideal of what it means to be a family, and to take care of one’s own, while doing one’s best to try and serve the nation or the people in it. I was especially moved by Chris’ exploration of his great great grandfather’s work in the cemetery during the Cholera epidemic in St. Louis. I liked the fact that Chris O’Donnell and his ancestors reflected what a good solid American role models are. I enjoyed the fact that his family lines have been a part of the making of this country for many, many generations – and frankly we need more people with the values he has to help us keep moving forward. The program also used a fairly good amount of on line genealogical resources other than, and I was please to see that there was also a good use of local libraries and historical societies. @ Tom and Annette – I agree, the park ranger at Fort McHenry was great!!! – Not afraid to “live” the story as he was telling it to Chis. I don’t find fault in Chris for not knowing where Fort McHenry was, after all, it wasn’t a “Jeopardy” question – and so now he does know – so for me he bothered to find out. Bothering to want to find out is half the battle when it comes to genealogy (or any history) – and I believe that I have good reason to think that Chris will go home and educate his children further about their great American heritage. I believe the best part of the program for me was that Chris’ ancestors were so wonderfully “normal” and reflected the very essence of everyday humanity in doing the best that they could for themselves – and for their country. No heroes, no scandals, just good solid and honest living – for generations! As to how great great grandpa got the sword he turned over to the Smithsonian ; ) – Well, I rather wish that they would have given it back to Chris and his family – how great great grandpa came by it is no longer important – it”s just a part of the story! Chris is definitely one of the good guys. Great program overall. Grade A-

  4. Joe McCabe

    I much enjoyed this episode as well. And yes, the park ranger was VERY animated. He made the rather laid back Chris seem even more taciturn. My ears perked up especially in the beginning, when Chris and his niece were talking about some of the names in Chris’ tree. I’m a McCabe and was really hoping he would pursue that branch of the family, but certainly the amount of historical and material records in the line he followed made that choice the better one.

  5. Tracy

    What a great show! I am so sorry it wasn’t longer. This one needs a part two because one or two generations back gets him to the American Revolution. Plus they said the family had been here 10 gens back from Michael, right? Couldn’t that just about take him to the Mayflower. I hope this spurred Chris on to continue his research. I thought I’d like to see the Smithsonian give the sword, along with the letter, back to the family where it belongs. Then I pictured grandchildren selling it on Pawn Stars for gambling money and realized that those artifacts are where they belong. Chris can copy the letter and pass that down so future families can go there to enjoy it.

  6. observer

    Bravo! I never wanted this one to end. It was a great show all the way around. Lots of history and seeing how someone’s ancestors fit into that history as common folk and family men. Chris was a great subject for this search. He came across as someone who had a real center. And like everyone here commenting, the Park Service guide was really great. It’s wonderful to see someone who loves the job he does. Boy oh boy did that shine through. Thank you for this episode. It helped deepen my knowledge of both the Mexican American War and the War of 1812. This one is a keeper for sure.

  7. Margaret

    Wishing they explored the O’donnell history too. He SO reminds me of my O’Donnell uncle, even to the “gotcha” which my uncle said all the time. Slim chance, I know, but…..

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