Martin Sheen’s enthusiasm for this recent Who Do You Think You Are? journey bubbled over during a recent telephone interview with the media. I asked him what he thought was the #1 reason folks should research their family history search – he identified personal enrichment as the key. But it was another reporter’s question that generated a surprising answer:

Question: “Before your experience with “Who Do You Think You Are?” were you were aware that there were family history resources like that online?”

Answer: “In fact I have watched the show. I am a big fan of the show…And so when they asked me I said yes without hesitation because I don’t own a computer and I’m way behind on these new methods of gaining information”  In fact, he want on to say he had never used a computer.

Did I hear him right?  Wait a second – in one of the opening scenes of his episode which I previewed this week, Martin sits at his dining room table in front of a computer and narrates the scene to say he’s going to go on Ancestry to start his search.

But isn’t everything on TV true? 

This little event was a healthy reminder that Who Do You Think You Are? is first and foremost entertainment and storytelling. And it executes this goal expertly. It’s a captivating show that thankfully continues to inspire newbies to consider the possibility of exploring their own family tree.

The footage of  the fabricated search is also a healthy reminder that not everything we see is true. And this can be applied to our own family history.  It’s tempting to take in every detail of a newly found old photo as an accurate representation of our ancestors.  And yet, our ancestors often donned outfits that only saw the light of day a few times a year.  And careful inspection of a carte de visite can reveal that the background is actually a drape over a shrubbery hedge in the front yard of the old homestead.

No spoiler alerts here as I have no intention of spilling the beans on what you will see tonight.  I will say that it will likely generate some lively discussion among genealogists, but you will certainly be entertained and inspired to keep at the important and satisfying work of family history investigation.  Just be sure to keep the salt shaker close by for when you need those few grains of salt.

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