Last night, PBS aired the 1st episode of their new series, “Genealogy Roadshow.” The first episode is now online for viewing if you missed it. The first episode was filmed here in my hometown of Nashville, TN and my husband and I actually auditioned for the show, though we didn’t end up making it on. Throughout the favorable response I’ve seen online since the show aired, I thought I would share our experience as it may shed some light on the process. Of course, others may have insight too!
Back in April, I received an email from one of the show producers who found me through my blogging. She introduced the premise of the show and asked if I would be interested in submitting a genealogical case for the show. I was flattered and thought it would be cool so contacted her for more info.
The Genealogical Mystery
From the very outset, the show casting calls made it clear that they were interested in solving genealogical mysteries – particularly ones that were compelling. I get it of course – it’s a television show after all! I don’t happen to have any big “mysteries” in my family tree that I felt would be particularly newsworthy, but there were a couple in Kalonji’s. We presented two different stories – 1) seeking the father of Kalonji’s bi-racial great-grandfather Champ McClellan and 2) investigating the potential that one of Kalonji’s 2nd great-grandmothers was related to Meriweather Lewis of Lewis and Clark. The producer asked me several questions about the family tree – wanting details, dates, and names for these people. Easy enough to do since I keep all of our family tree data online on our website.
Within a week or two, Kalonji and I were doing a video audition for the show via Skype! That was way cool. The producer recorded us telling our stories and why were were interested in seeking out the answers to these genealogical mysteries. With lots of prompting to be animated (remember, this is television) . I guess they wanted to make sure they had people who were interesting to see and not going to be deadpan throughout filming. Can’t blame them for that! Our video was then shared with show producers.
A week or so after the audition, I was then contacted by a professional genealogist who was hired to investigate. By this point, it became quite apparent to me that Genealogy Roadshow was interested in pursuing the Meriweather Lewis connection as all her questions were about this story. We spoke for about 20 minutes while she confirmed the details she’s received from the show and I sent her the link to our family tree website. Great!
The Nashville episode of the show was filmed here in town on June 30th at the Belmont Mansion. Unfortunately, we were not selected for the show but I never received confirmation one way or another until I just never heard from them by the time filming started. I guess this was just miscommunication from the show producers, which honestly left me a bit disappointed, but I’ll chalk it up to the way things work in television. Social media was all abuzz the day of filming about them being in town.
After filming, the show producers confirmed that I should be getting a packet of what research they did compile – they explained that they were not able to find enough prior to the show. So, I am hopeful that in that research there may be things that even I didn’t know. As for being on the show – “c’est la vie” – it wasn’t meant to be, However, in these past few weeks as the show has been nearing air date, I had become increasingly excited about it and seeing the stories of those that did make it onto the show. I was able to watch it online last night and thoroughly enjoyed it! I am very much looking forward to seeing the rest as well. I am truly excited for all those that did learn more about the mystery stories in their families.