Genealogy - Genealogy Television Series

Genealogy Television Series

There are numerous documentary television series available on genealogy and family tree research, and these series can be of interest whether you are a beginner or an expert.  The photo above shows artwork for the UK series Who Do You Think You Are? and was sourced here and edited via Adobe Photoshop Elements.  

 

Genealogy Television Series


Listed below are some television documentaries on genealogy and family tree research.  Some of the more popular series research the ancestry and family trees of celebrities, while others research non-celebrities, and some include the results of DNA ethnicity testing and DNA matching.  The availability of a given series will vary based on country, streaming provider, etc.  This list will be continually updated and expanded, and if you know of any other series, please kindly let me know.  Click on each toggle to expand it and reveal further details.

DNA Detectives (2015-2017)


DNA Detectives is a documentary television series from New Zealand. The series is hosted by Richard O’Brien from the Rocky Horror Picture Show. With each episode, the DNA and family trees of two celebrities are researched. The series ran from 2015 to 2017, and there are a total of 12 episodes that run about an hour each.




Faces of America (2010)


Faces of America is a documentary television series from PBS. The series is hosted by Dr. Louis Henry Gates, and the format is nearly identical to the follow-on series Finding Your Roots. With each episode, Dr. Gates sits across the table from celebrities, and reveals their family tree in a “book of life,” which sometimes includes the results of DNA testing. Similar to Finding Your Roots, the series is intriguing with how DNA is used to challenge preconceived notions of race, ethnicity, and nationality. The series ran in 2010, and there are four episodes that run about an hour each.




Finding Your Roots (2012-2021+)


Finding Your Roots is a documentary television series from PBS. The series is hosted by Dr. Louis Henry Gates, who also hosted a preceding series called Faces of America, which had an identical format. With each episode, Dr. Gates sits across the table from celebrities, and reveals their family tree in a “book of life,” which sometimes includes the results of DNA testing. Sometimes there is a family tree link between the celebrities. The series is intriguing with how DNA is used to challenge preconceived notions of race, ethnicity, and nationality. The series has run since 2012, and so far there are 76 episodes that run about an hour each.




Genealogy Roadshow (2013-2016)


Genealogy Roadshow is a documentary television series from PBS. The premise is similar to Antiques Roadshow, but the content is genealogy. Unlike other genealogy series that feature celebrities, this series features PBS viewers from across the country. Obviously, the research is done by professional genealogists before filming. Each guest meets on camera with a professional genealogist, and the results are revealed. The one valuable aspect of this series is they occasionally disprove family legends, which demonstrates the need to have an open mind when doing family tree research. The series ran from 2013 to 2016, and there are 17 episodes that run about an hour each.




The Genetic Detective (2020+)


The Genetic Detective is a documentary television series from ABC. The series features investigative genetic genealogist CeCe Moore, who also occassionaly appears on Finding Your Roots. Each episode recounts the solving of a cold case, and begins with crime scene DNA, and the application of DNA matching with genealogy and family tree research to identify the perpetrator. The series began airing in 2020, and so far there are a total of six episodes that run about 45 minutes each.




Heir Hunters (2007-2017)


Heir Hunters is a documentary television series from the BBC in the UK. The series title is sometimes stylized as H£ir Hunt£rs. This reality series focuses on several UK firms that track down heirs of unclaimed estates, and by doing so, the firms claim a percentage of the estate in commission. When someones dies without a will in the UK, the estate can pass to one or more relatives who descend in some way from the grandparents of the deceased. The series shows these firms utilizing birth, marriage, death, and census records for their research, as well as interviewing people. How the heirs are related to deceased varies, and in many cases, they did not even know each other. The series ran from 2007 to 2017, and there are over 200 episodes that run about an hour each.




The Human Family Tree (2009)


The Human Family Tree is a documentary movie from National Geographic, and is narrated by actor Kevin Bacon. The documentary shows several dozen people from New York City who agreed to have their DNA tested by a team of researchers. The genetic ancestry of the participants is revealed, and they are grouped based on common DNA markers from centuries ago. Similar to the the PBS series Faces of America and Finding Your Roots, this documentary is intriguing with how DNA is used to challenge preconceived notions of race, ethnicity, and nationality. The movie aired in 2009, and runs about 90 minutes.





A New Leaf (2019)


A New Leaf is a documentary television series from NBC. The series was sponsored by Ancestry, and hosted by Daisy Fuentes. Unlike the majority of television series which explore the family tree of celebrities, each episode explores the genealogy of a non-celebrity. This series is targeted for the beginner or casual researcher. Due to the short episode length, each begins with revealing the results of the findings, and does not show any methods of the actual research. The series ran in 2019, and there are a total of 8 episodes that run about 20 minutes hour each.




Roots Less Traveled (2020)


Roots Less Traveled is a documentary television series from NBC. The series is sponsored by Ancestry, and hosted by Faruq Tauheed. The series is more or less a reboot of A New Leaf, and is targeted towards beginners. The series ran in 2020, and there are a total of 8 episodes that run about 25 minutes each.




Who Do You Think You Are? (US Version 2010-2018+)


Who Do You Think You Are? is a documentary television series. The series originally aired on NBC from 2010 to 2012, was then picked up by TLC in 2013, and was picked up again by NBC in 2019. The series was adapted from a long running UK series of the same name. Each episode features a celebrity who meets with professional genealogists and historians. As their family tree is revealed, they travel to various places across the world to learn about their ancestors. The series has run since 2010, and there are 78 episodes that run about 45 minutes each. There is a new season forthcoming from NBC, but release dates have not been announced.




Who Do You Think You Are? (UK Version 2004-2020)


Who Do You Think You Are? is a documentary television series from the BBC in the UK. It has spawned versions in other countries, such as the US, under the same name. The UK version of the series features a British celebrity, and they visit various places while researching their family tree. The approach is somewhat different from the US version, in that there are less experts in front of the camera, and the celebrity’s ancestry is usually more ordinary. The family tree is obviously researched ahead of time by professional genealogists, and the British celebrity is guided from behind the scenes. The series has run since 2004, and there are 149 episodes that run about an hour each. The method that I use to view this series in the US is with a region free DVD player, and purchasing the DVDs from Amazon UK.




My Family Secrets Revealed (2019)


My Family Secrets Revealed is a documentary television series from Channel 4 in the UK. It is a similar to Genealogy Roadshow, which aired on PBS. The premise is similar to Antiques Roadshow, but the content is genealogy. Unlike other genealogy series that feature celebrities, this series features non-celebrities. The research is done by professional genealogists before filming. Each guest meets on camera with a professional genealogist, and the results are revealed. The one valuable aspect of this series is they occasionally disprove family legends, which demonstrates the need to have an open mind when doing family tree research. The series aired in 2019, and there are a total of 15 that run about an hour each. The series is available on the BritBox streaming service in the USA. There is no Wikipedia or IMDb entry for the series.




Murder, Mystery, and My Family (2018-2020)


Murder, Mystery, and My Family is a documentary television series from the BBC in the UK. Each episode features a historical case of someone who was convicted of murder and executed. A living descendant or relative is interviewed, who is requesting the case to re-examined by modern day experts. The series is hosted by Queen’s Constable (QC) Sasha Wass who takes a prosecution point of view, and Queen’s Constable (QC) Jeremy Dein who takes a defense point of view. There is a minor amount of genealogical content in each episode. At the conclusion of each episode, the findings are presented to a judge, who makes an (unofficial) decision as to whether the original conviction was “unsafe.” There is a companion series called Murder, Mystery, and My Family: Case Closed? where updates are provided to previous episodes. The series has run since 2018, and there are a total of 50 episodes that run about an hour each.




Long Lost Family (2016-2019)


Long Lost Family is a documentary television series from TLC. The series is hosted by Chris Jacobs and Lisa Joyner, who are both adoptees, and have previously located their birth parents. In each episode, they help people identify and locate their birth parents or previously unknown family members. The methods utilized include traditional genealogical research methods, as well as DNA. The series ran from 2016 to 2019, and there a total of 53 episodes that run about an hour each.





Genealogy Television Dramas


Listed below are some fictional television dramas that involve genealogy.  Depending on your television entertainment viewing preferences, these fictional dramas might be of interest to genealogists, as family tree research is part of the plot.  This list will be continually updated and expanded and if you know of any other series or movies, please kindly let me know.  Click on each toggle to expand it and reveal further details.

Family Tree (2013)


Family Tree is a fictional drama and comedy television series. The main character is researching his family tree, and makes new discoveries in each episode. I saw the first couple of episodes, but did not finish the series, as it was not that captivating to me. The series aired in 2013, and there are eight episodes that run about an hour each.





Origins (2014-2016)


Origins (Orignes in French) is a French language crime drama television series from France. The series focuses on a professional genealogist who assists a police detective in solving crimes, including murder. It’s a light series, and though it doesn’t delve much into research, genealogists still may find this an entertaining drama. The series ran from 2014 to 2016, and there are 12 episodes that run about an hour each.





Genealogy Instructional Videos


Listed below are some instructional and educational videos about genealogy and family tree research.  This list is personalized, and includes tips, techniques, and practices that I have applied to my own research, or have found helpful, even as reminders and refreshers.  This list will be continually updated and expanded, and if you know of other videos that you found helpful, please kindly let me know.  Click on each toggle to expand it and reveal further details.

DNA Detectives (2015-2017)


DNA Detectives is a documentary television series from New Zealand. The series is hosted by Richard O’Brien from the Rocky Horror Picture Show. With each episode, the DNA and family trees of two celebrities are researched. The series ran from 2015 to 2017, and there are a total of 12 episodes that run about an hour each.




Faces of America (2010)


Faces of America is a documentary television series from PBS. The series is hosted by Dr. Louis Henry Gates, and the format is nearly identical to the follow-on series Finding Your Roots. With each episode, Dr. Gates sits across the table from celebrities, and reveals their family tree in a “book of life,” which sometimes includes the results of DNA testing. Similar to Finding Your Roots, the series is intriguing with how DNA is used to challenge preconceived notions of race, ethnicity, and nationality. The series ran in 2010, and there are four episodes that run about an hour each.




Finding Your Roots (2012-2021+)


Finding Your Roots is a documentary television series from PBS. The series is hosted by Dr. Louis Henry Gates, who also hosted a preceding series called Faces of America, which had an identical format. With each episode, Dr. Gates sits across the table from celebrities, and reveals their family tree in a “book of life,” which sometimes includes the results of DNA testing. Sometimes there is a family tree link between the celebrities. The series is intriguing with how DNA is used to challenge preconceived notions of race, ethnicity, and nationality. The series has run since 2012, and so far there are 76 episodes that run about an hour each.




Genealogy Roadshow (2013-2016)


Genealogy Roadshow is a documentary television series from PBS. The premise is similar to Antiques Roadshow, but the content is genealogy. Unlike other genealogy series that feature celebrities, this series features PBS viewers from across the country. Obviously, the research is done by professional genealogists before filming. Each guest meets on camera with a professional genealogist, and the results are revealed. The one valuable aspect of this series is they occasionally disprove family legends, which demonstrates the need to have an open mind when doing family tree research. The series ran from 2013 to 2016, and there are 17 episodes that run about an hour each.




The Genetic Detective (2020+)


The Genetic Detective is a documentary television series from ABC. The series features investigative genetic genealogist CeCe Moore, who also occassionaly appears on Finding Your Roots. Each episode recounts the solving of a cold case, and begins with crime scene DNA, and the application of DNA matching with genealogy and family tree research to identify the perpetrator. The series began airing in 2020, and so far there are a total of six episodes that run about 45 minutes each.




Heir Hunters (2007-2017)


Heir Hunters is a documentary television series from the BBC in the UK. The series title is sometimes stylized as H£ir Hunt£rs. This reality series focuses on several UK firms that track down heirs of unclaimed estates, and by doing so, the firms claim a percentage of the estate in commission. When someones dies without a will in the UK, the estate can pass to one or more relatives who descend in some way from the grandparents of the deceased. The series shows these firms utilizing birth, marriage, death, and census records for their research, as well as interviewing people. How the heirs are related to deceased varies, and in many cases, they did not even know each other. The series ran from 2007 to 2017, and there are over 200 episodes that run about an hour each.




The Human Family Tree (2009)


The Human Family Tree is a documentary movie from National Geographic, and is narrated by actor Kevin Bacon. The documentary shows several dozen people from New York City who agreed to have their DNA tested by a team of researchers. The genetic ancestry of the participants is revealed, and they are grouped based on common DNA markers from centuries ago. Similar to the the PBS series Faces of America and Finding Your Roots, this documentary is intriguing with how DNA is used to challenge preconceived notions of race, ethnicity, and nationality. The movie aired in 2009, and runs about 90 minutes.





    

    

  

© Copyright  -  Timothy J. Barron  -  This page was updated September 6, 2021