Hosted by Daisy Fuentes, “A New Leaf” Highlights the Value of Understanding One’s Family History
Set your DVRs and mark your calendars — we have a new television show debuting on NBC!
We heard your feedback: You love “Who Do You Think You Are?” – but also want to see everyday people embark on journeys of personal discovery too. So, we bring you – “A New Leaf”!
Each week “A New Leaf” will follow people on the cusp of key life inflection points, who using family history, genealogy, and sometimes AncestryDNA® analysis will go on a journey of self-discovery and learn from the past while looking to the future. In partnership with Ancestry, Fuentes will join families as they learn the importance of appreciating and understanding their family history and ancestors in order to make important life decisions.
We sat down with Jennifer Utley, director of research at Ancestry to learn what it takes to make “A New Leaf” episode come to life.
“A New Leaf” will be included in the Saturday NBC morning programming block, The More You Know, beginning October 5, 2019. Please check your local listings.
How does Ancestry power A New Leaf and other similar shows (i.e. “Who Do You Think You Are?”)?
Jennifer Utley: Ancestry’s role goes far beyond being a sponsor for numerous television shows. Our professional researchers and genealogists invest thousands upon thousands of hours expertly researching certain individuals for all our programs, including A New Leaf. Ancestry has over 100 professional genealogists on staff, and these genealogists build quality family trees and they examine those family trees to source authentic stories that can be shared with both our television subject and our viewers.
What does the research process look like to create just a single episode of “A New Leaf”?
Utley: We begin researching every new family tree the same way and we start with what the cast member, the subject of the episode, already knows about their family. We ask all cast members to fill out a family tree, to the best of their ability, and their details help us get started quickly. Then, our team kicks off our intensive research portion, doing the best we can to build a 5-generation family tree. It’s at this point that our Ancestry team begins to notice potential family stories that could be included in a future episode. Our strategy is typically to find a single character — or perhaps focus on one side of the family — and really dig in to uncover their records and learn the historical context surrounding their lives, to tell a more layered and emotional story.
Aside from detailed research, what else happens behind the scenes to make an episode of “A New Leaf” come to life?
Utley: The family history research is only one component to creating a great television series. We consult well-known historians and local experts, we scope out interesting places to shoot, and we do our best to pull relevant historical images that we can show our audience. Television is a highly visual medium, so we want to provide our audience with visuals of compelling records and historical images, while also filming in a great setting.
Family history research is the cornerstone of “A New Leaf.” Do you believe family history research and genealogy are becoming more popular? Why or why not?
Utley: I’ve worked at Ancestry for over 22 years and I’ve seen firsthand how increasingly popular family history has become for people of all ages. The advent of the Internet has been the real game-changer and Ancestry was the first company to add historical records online, making previously hard to find documents searchable at the click of a button. For over three decades, Ancestry has been a pioneer in family history research, developing innovative research tools and adding new content to our historical record collections that enable people everywhere to uncover their unique family story. In our fast-paced world, I personally believe there is still room to reflect on those who came before us and examine how their decisions and sacrifices led to who we are today.
What powerful lessons do you believe someone can learn by understanding their family’s individual journey?
Utley: Over the years, I’ve watched family history positively impact so many lives and there are countless stories to learn from in everyone’s family tree. Researchers at Emory University discovered that teenagers and children who understand stories about their own family histories, and the trials and adversity their own ancestors faced, are more resilient and less anxious in their lives today. The theory is that these teenagers and children make a connection with those ancestors and think if someone in their family overcame or faced an obstacle, then so can they. Knowing your family history can be a powerful influence.
What are you most excited for viewers to learn as they watch “A New Leaf” this October?
Utley: We invest endless hours into bringing these meaningful stories to life and I’m always thrilled when a new show premieres, because we have the opportunity to share these stories on a global level. For years, fans of our shows have been asking to feature more everyday people, and my hope is that our dedicated viewers will love this show and that A New Leaf will also inspire a new generation of future family historians.