Posted by Ancestry Team on August 28, 2013 in Who Do You Think You Are?


How do you get from Cindy Crawford back to Charlemagne in one hour? Crawford

Things might happen fast on television, but behind the scenes, it took months to research Cindy’s tree. Only the records that were essential stepping stones could be included in her story, and a few important steps we took along the way didn’t make the final cut.

Like the first step, which is always to find out what the family knows already.

Our ProGenealogists gathered information from Cindy’s family that got us back to Cindy’s great-grandfather in her Hemingway line: Frank Randall Hemingway. Frank was born in 1896 in Minnesota, and we found him in all applicable census records, including 1910 and 1900. (We found lots of other records for Frank as well, including his birth record, WWI draft registration, death certificate, gravestone and even a photo of him and his wife.)


After fleshing out Frank’s story, we started looking for his father, Louis Hemingway, and quickly found him in the 1880 census. This record revealed that Louis’ parents, Frank and Delia Hemingway were not from Minnesota. Frank was born in New Hampshire and Delia in New York. Working back one generation at a time, we found Cindy’s ancestors in every Federal Census taken in the United States since 1790. We ultimately learned that Cindy’s immigrant ancestor was Ralph Hemingway, who was a resident of Massachusetts as early as 1636.


Tracing these deep American roots put us on the trail that would lead us back to Cindy’s famous grandfather, Charlemagne*.

 “What is really cool for kids is when you can bring history alive—when it is relevant to them.” 

Follow your ancestors back through census records at to discover how long your family has been in America.


Learn more about Cindy’s journey or watch the full episode on And then watch more celebrities discover their family history on all new episodes of Who Do You Think You Are? Tuesdays 9|8c on TLC.


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



  1. Rob

    If Cindy Crawford would venture further from Charlemagne, she would have discover she has an even more impressive ancestor, Charlemagne’s grandfather, Charles the Hammer, the Frankish mayor who prevented Muslims from conquering Europe and laid the foundations for which Charlemagne built on.

  2. Judi Root

    I watched both Chris O’Donnell’s episode & Cindy Crawfords as well, amazed at all the work that must have gone into each piece! I also do a lot of research on on my own family & noted that Cindy’s ancestor Thomas Trowbridge may be linked to my family as well. We have a Mary Trowbridge, who came from Conn. about a hundred years after, but I’m betting I can connect this line at some point further back in time. So, Thank You for this nudge & maybe Cindy is a relative afterall 🙂 Judi

  3. Tracy Whitehead Lenz

    I was flabergasted while watching WDYTYA last nite. I am a direct descendant from Thomas Trowbridge. My grandma was a Trowbridge. I have done our family tree back to Charlemagne also using, so it was nice to see that I was spot on with my research too.
    I posted a comment right away on my FB timeline and it was interesting to see the comments that come back.
    I do wish you would do a NON=Famous person who has a brick wall. I would volunteer to do a pilot family for you. 🙂
    Love your show.
    Tracy Whitehead Lenz

  4. Carolyn Nolan Irvine

    Thank you for doing this show. On getting more and more folks to watch it. I too am a decendant of Thomas Trowbridge and even had copies of the pages of the book Cindy was holding from my research. I was so excited to here the history and see the castles of my ancestors and learned even more. Thank you Cindy for doing this show!

  5. Samantha

    Around 50-80% of all people of European origin are descended from Charlemagne….I wouldn’t call her special.

  6. BEE

    My DVR died, so I was unable to watch this episode, but I’m happy to read that Cindy’s great grandfather was found on “all applicable census records”.
    I would still like to know how it was decided that the other “Mary Maginnes” born abt 1850″ living in Missouri was not the ancestor of Chris O’Donnell.
    And I’m still wonder what became of the information on one of the episodes last year where some fellow was told his grandfather was a bigamist living in New Britain CT. I believe a search of the previous census showed him living there with his family, and while having the same name and similar information, was not this fellow’s grandfather.

  7. Rene

    i have enjoyed your series very much this year. Personally, Christina Applegates story has touched me more than the others. I am working on my Dad’s family history along with a cousin. We knew that several children were born and died shortly after. They were buried with no markers and that one fact has saddened me. So I knew exactly what Christina and her Father were feeling.

  8. Frank Sperling

    I find WDYTYA episodes both fascinating and frustrating. Fascinating for many of the same reasons that others have posted. Frustrating because after 6+ years of genealogical research, I have only traced my family members back to around 1800. To see “special” people provided access to resources not readily available to me and to see them uncover interesting family roots in a flick-of-the-eye tends to underscore the increasing class separation in this country between the haves and have-nots. Nonetheless, I continue my genealogical journey and give lots of credit and thanks to family tree maker and for making my progress thus far happen.

  9. Annette

    Frank Sperling — I agree with YOU! While I have been able to trace one branch of my ancestors back to the 1500s in France and another to the 1600s in England, it is discouraging to me that people who are famous get the red carpet treatment, and do nothing except sit back and reap the benefits of professional research that we cannot afford, except in our dreams. The two episodes that were outstanding this season were Ms Applegate and Ms Daschenel’s. Chelsea Handler’s episode was embarrassing on all levels, and O’Donnel and Clarkson seemed to have huge gaps of knowledge about basic American history…….I have to say that this is the first year I have felt this way about WDYTYR — perhaps it was the lineup of the guests that turned me off, as no racial/ethnic minorities were included this year as they have been in the past. We are a very diverse country yet everyone this season is obviously primarily of European background. Stay the course, Frank, and someday there will be a break through that will leave you gob smacked!

  10. I was surprised to find Charlemane as my # 37 GGF as well as 4 gens of “King of the Franks”.
    I was just as well-off before I found that out.
    Not one of those famous people left me with a Crown and no one believes they were my GGF
    either. It was quite a deal to me but it is just
    a Ho Hum to everyone else. Oh! I almost forgot,
    They did leave me with one thing, CANCER!!!

  11. took “Adams Rib”, my tree,
    from about 3,800 people to well over
    20,000 almost immediately. I had used
    about 30 years to gather the first 3,800.

  12. Tanya Mai

    I think that statement should be “1,000 hours of research = 1 hr tv show and gets you related to Charlemagne” ….. I just am a bit disappointed that they don’t emphasize how many hours go into this type of research – and wouldn’t it be grand to have the sources they have to do our own research.

  13. Michael

    I think it would be great for, with of course the cooperation and consent of the many researchers who contributed in the 1,000 hours of research, to post the research artifacts, process and conclusions drawn during the research. This would offer a great tutorial the genealogical community with some mass-appeal celebrity factor as well.

    There seems to be a particular interest in the evidence and proof for the Thomas Trowbridge line.

  14. Margaret Smith

    I do enjoy the series very much. I would like for you to maybe give us a written version of some of the research that went into finding the ancestors. 1000 hours could be summerized to let us know some of the tips and tricks the professional genealogist uses. To all who complain that the rich or famous have more resources than we do, they have the money to pay for a professional to help them and of course, the shows producers also have the knowledge to find the right professional. And they do travel to where the information is located.

  15. Jeff Record

    Gosh, what a lot of sniveling goes on here for whatever reason.

    Yes, 80% of Europe and America is probably descended from Charlemagne – Yet no doubt only about .03% can actually prove it legitimately outside of “GEDCOMs” and LDS “clues” that have been strung together in some form of personal revisionist genealogy.

    True too is that we could always fall back on those ‘hangman family trees’ strung together by copying and pasting pedigrees that have no outside 3rd party verification with no vested interest in any facts – and then we can always complain about the lack of basic historical knowledge any particular celebrity might have. Oh, that’s productive!

    If you really want to prove your related to Charlemagne ( or anyone else like “Johnny Mayflower ) submit your work to a lineage society at the very least – and let someone vet out your sources. You may be pleasantly surprised, or humbly disappointed. However, at least you might be closer to the truth.

    As far as “The Celebrities” go – that’s what draws the most viewers in. (Duh) “Johnny Nobody” while interesting, isn’t going to tend to draw a crowd. We’ve already seen a change from NBC to TLC – do we really want to lose this show to an internet channel site? I didn’t think so.

    So sit back and enjoy it for what it is – even the worst episodes are better than none at all.

    As far as people of color other ethnicity go – you have my sympathies, but last I checked most people don’t speak ancient Aztec – and how great are those Zulu records?. The records just aren’t there to look for or at. How many “Grandpa owned a slave stories” do you want to see – because regrettably and unfortunately that’s the way it was. The genealogy, while tragic, is tediously repetitive. I do think that WDYTYR would do well to look at Native Americans – like the Cherokee Nation – because records do exist here – and there is a genealogical story to tell and a method to learn about.

    In the end, it not about the person – its about the process, the sources, the methods – and ultimately and OBJECTIVE verification of the proofs.

    So go make yourself some pop corn and let’s learn Trisha Yearwood and what she has to say!

    Personally, I think Cindy Crawford’s story was great – and the folks at N.E.G.H.S. ROCK!

    ~ Peace Out ~

  16. Mel C

    I would love to discover who my 3rd great-grandparents are. I cannot go any further than 1817. I want to know how do you gather information/proof if rural areas did not document births/deaths until the late 1880’s? Apparently I must come from people that worked the farms and never kept written info in a family Bible.

    I enjoy WDYTYA and the celebs, but would enjoy it more if they give tips or clues to how the average person can find great grandpa without hiring a researcher or Honestly I have only found census records and a few more recent birth certs from Tenn.

  17. Jarrod

    I felt that the Chelsea Handler episode was a bit sensationalized with the possible Nazi connection. It was a few weeks ago now so maybe my memory of the episode is a bit off, but if her Grandfather was actually a Nazi wouldn’t he have had just a tiny problem with his daughter marrying a Jewish man? Seems like they were searching for an answer that was staring them in the face the whole time. Ratings I guess.

  18. Thanks for your post. I enjoy checking out your blog to see what I may have missed from watching WDYTYA. Which is just amazing that it even exist. Some of the best TV has to offer. By The Way Who would have ever guessed that Genealogy would be Prime Time TV. It’s just wonderful that a brain can learn from TV while teaching the generations that there is more then murder and mayhem to view.

    1,000 of research = $145,000.00 big price to pay for research. Only if Cindy was in politics.
    As Mark Twain said
    “Why waste your money looking up your family tree?
    Just go into politics, and your opponents will do it for you.”

    I second you Jeff Record In All You said.

    Sit back learn and enjoy about someone else s Family History! What you see or learn just might help you figure out a new way to find or break down your brick wall. As doing Family History- Leave No Stone Un-turned, cause it’s the last place you look.

    Best To All,

  19. Jo Brittain

    I love the show! It is amazing when the “celebrities” learn more about their ancestors to share with their children!

    It would be wonderful to have $$$ resources to break down the genealogy “brick walls”!

    I have thought about having my complete family history in ONE book . . . interesting reading. I would read and then think . . . well this is done and move on to another interest.

    Just remember how many cousins/others you have met with the same genealogy passion. Getting to know all my extended family over the years is my best life experience!

  20. James W Cummings

    Charlemagne descents probably number into the billions but just to link the pieces is quite something. I have a few such linkages though not Capt Thomas Trowbridge. These include Capt Philip Nelson and Samuel Appleton.

  21. BEE

    I finally got to see the episode, and enjoyed the history very much, but again, I ask the question.
    Was another Thomas Trowbridge living in Taunton ruled out as the man marrying, and the ancestor of Cindy Crawford? I have yet to find a name no matter how unusual, without at least one other person born in the same area about the same time, no matter the country and time period. There were no documents showing that Cindy’s Thomas returned to England, so how did they determine it was the same man living in New Haven, and not another Thomas Trowbridge living in England the whole time?

  22. Roger Marble

    Along with others here I share the link to Thomas Trowbridge. It sure would be nice if WDYTYA or even would publish the information along with appropriate source citations to support the family line of the celebs covered in the shows.
    This could be used to educate many into what it really takes to do real Genealogy. It shouldn’t be difficult if the work was in fact actually already done. They certainly didn’t do it on the back of napkins but must have used an established Gen program.

  23. Phoebe Call

    I find the censuses before 1830 barely useful since only head of household is named. The rest is inference from location, sexes and ages, and may or may not be the correct family. How was Cindy Crawford traced for sure back to 1790?

  24. Margie Richards Cooper

    Found out that Cindy Crawford and I share an ancestor, Charlemagne. When Brooke Shield was on the program, I found out that she and I shared a link. Small world. Thanks for the info on Charlemagne.

  25. Willow

    Thomas Trowbridge is in my tree too. Would love to see details also. Am VERY curious how much guessing and jumping to conclusions is done on these trees.

  26. Annette

    Someone made a comment above that “Zulu records” were not available and how many times do we need to hear that “grandpa owned a slave. “I am guessing that this was in response to my post that I was disappointed that no people of color were included in this season’s line up on WDYTYA. I am white with black relatives (distant half cousins) due to branches of my family owning slaves in Virginia. We have well-documented family lines that go back to the 1600’s in Virginia, but other African Americans can not go back further than their grandparents, maybe their great-grand parents if they are lucky. Hitting brick walls is a frequent happening.

  27. Linda Brooks

    I have not been able to see the last 2 episodes. i do not have cable, but was watching them on TLC. Now all of a sudden they won’t let me. Why?

    • Kristie Wells

      Linda, I would clear your cache and try again. You should be able to see all videos without issue on

  28. Jeffrey

    I liked the program but have some picky comments. After a career as a media celebrity I would think Cindy Crawford could vocalize reactions more articulate than “Oh Wow!” to the information the professionals are laying in her lap. The way the TLC program is edited is so redundant I feel the producers must think their audiences are morons. It wasn’t much better when it was at NBC, but at least they seemed to have a bigger budget for the presentation there. The Christine Applegate episode was the best this season because of the emotion she and her father felt about the revelations. The Crawford episode initially seemed to suggest that Cindy could get on the computer herself and do research but very quickly descended to the professionals bowing to her beck and call. Certainly this show is better than Duck Dynasty, but I would like them to stay more to the story values of the Applegate episode than what we seen in the Crawford or Zooey episodes.

  29. Aileen

    I was pretty shocked when I watched the Cindy Crawford show because you led her, and the viewers, to believe that Thomas Trowbridge simply abandoned his children and ran off to England to look for a wife. The viewers were also led to believe that he did not pay his bills, and that his children were ordered by the court to be placed in the care of Sergeant Thomas Jeffrey because they had been abandoned by their father. Cindy Crawford was even unsure if she “liked” her ancestor (until later, when she got to England, and decided he was a very brave soldier so all “was forgiven”).

    It is well documented…even in the Trowbridge Genealogy you handed to Cindy (see page 45)…that when Thomas Trowbridge left for England, he left his children, his lands, and his affairs in a trust for them, and left them in the care of a former servant, Henry Gibbons. It was HENRY GIBBONS who abandoned the children, and didn’t pay the bills. Thomas kept in constant contact (as much as you could back then) with his children. He was a part of their lives until he died, and some of his sons traveled to England to see him there later in life.

    The reason the court turned the affairs and the children over to Sergeant Jeffrey was because of what their guardian HENRY did, not their father, Thomas. The court said the children were to remain with Sergeant Jeffrey until their father could return and get those bills paid that Henry didn’t pay. But (as the show correctly depicted) Thomas was unable to return due to the English Civil War, etc. The children later sued Henry Gibbons to try to get back the land that their father had left them. That court case went on for many, many years but they were eventually successful.

    My children are descendants of Thomas Trowbridge. I really feel that you did them, and Cindy Crawford, a real disservice by editing the show in such a way that he seemed like a deadbeat dad who left his children in dire straits while he ran off to England looking for love. Next time, read the book you hand to the celebrity and do your research. Somewhere in those “1,000 hours” you lost site of the real man and left out the major reason those children were turned over to Sergeant Jeffery. Gosh, I hope you at least told Cindy the real truth later.

  30. Curtis Bates

    “Yet no doubt only about .03% can actually prove it legitimately outside of “GEDCOMs” and LDS “clues” that have been strung together in some form of personal revisionist genealogy.”

    Sadly, many are out there stringing bad information together. You blame LDS “clues” but you need to realize a vast many who are doing this are not LDS even if they are using LDS provided tools.

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