Tuesday, September 24, 2013

How to get on The Genealogy Roadshow

I've tried twice to be on PBS’s Antiques Roadshow.  As a WGBH member, I receive a newsletter and emails telling me when the show is near New England.  There is a lottery for audience members, so no matter how wonderful your antique items are, you still have to go through the first obstacle of the lottery.  I've never made it that far. Too bad, PBS, I have some great antiques with great stories!

When my daughter was in high school we also applied for the PBS Colonial House TV series, and I panicked when the producers liked our application and called us back.  They called and emailed me several times, and I finally decided that I didn't want to be part of living in the early 17th century.  Life involved hauling water, chopping wood and sleeping on the floor.  Yes, I love my Pilgrim ancestors, but I also love that they lived that life already for me and I don’t have to.  Ever. Thank you, ancestors.

Last night the first episode of The Genealogy Roadshow aired on PBS.  It was a fun, fast paced show and the reviews on social media are very positive. People are already asking me “How do I get on Genealogy Roadshow?”  This is what I found:

Back in April 2013 there was a casting call for The Genealogy Roadshow by PBS.  Participants were asked to email genealogy@bigmountainproductions.com with interesting family mysteries.  This post listed the cities of Austin, Detroit, Nashville and San Francisco.  This was spread around by news outlets and genealogy bloggers.  From these submissions, the lucky few were chosen and their stories were researched.
Click here to see a sample online casting call post:

Big Mountain Productions is the Irish company that produced the original Genealogy Roadshow in the UK.   According to their Facebook page, they are involved with “creating & making factual/entertainment & entertainment formats.”  Besides Facebook, you can follow them on Twitter (@_BigMountain )and YouTube http://www.youtube.com/user/BigMountainIreland

All four episodes of the 2013 season of The Genealogy Roadshow have already been cast, researched and recorded.  Hopefully the series will be renewed by PBS for a second season.  Keep your eyes peeled for announcements of a second set of shows, and for subsequent announcements of the cities to be involved and the casting calls.  Hopefully they will not resort to a lottery system, like the wildly popular Antiques Roadshow. 

Good luck!


The Genealogy Roadshow website  http://genealogyroadshow.com/about.html 
Casting application page for The Genealogy Roadshow http://www.grcasting.com/

UPDATE- 3 October 2013 blog post from a Genealogy Roadshow insider, Jean Wilcox Hibben on "Basic Guidelines to Select Genealogy Roadshow Stories" at this link:


The URL for this post is
Copyright 2013, Heather Wilkinson Rojo


  1. Very interesting Heather. Who knew? Maybe they might like our Thomas Tew pirate mystery next season? LOL

    I watched last night and found it much more interesting than the celebrity-based WDYTYA, which has alwys irked me by giving the impression that one can easily jet around chasing their genealogy AND get the kind of face-to-face, individualized treatment the celebrities get on the show.

    Anyone watching either WDYTYA or the new Genealogy Roadshow (GR) should realize this is not happening in real time and a lot of work happens before the taping takes place, but I liked GR better because it showcases everday non-celebs coming with the kinds of questions and legends almost all families have at one point or another -- AND some clearly turn out to be false in whole or part. The format seems to be a mix from Antiques Roadshow and the court TV programs that does quick afterwards interviews of those showcased. I also enjoyed the longer history bits thrown in and the quick little solutions to some questions that, as we all know, sometimes do have a pretty easy and relatively swift resolution. I think I'll try to watch more of these, whereas I gave up on WDYTYA long ago. They both shine a spotlight on genealogy in an entertaining way for many, so that is good; but if anyone is keeping track, I vote for GR over WDYTYA. :-)

  2. Heather, you answered one of my questions . . . how to get on this fun program! I never missed an episode of WDYTYA because there's always something to learn, but GR is for those of us who aren't descended from Charlemagne. Very touching, very real stories. Best of all, I liked the reminders to start with the census and follow FANs to make connections. Imagine meeting your first cousin for the first time on PBS? What a dream. Can't wait for next Monday's episode.

  3. I wonder what exactly they consider an "interesting family mystery"? That my family might share part of a surname with the guy who Freud named Masochism after? Or that my great-grandfather disappears for the 1910 census when I know he was here. Or that 2 great-uncles died in coal mining accidents which we can't find in any records?

  4. Heather,

    I want to let you know that your blog post is listed in today's Fab Finds post at http://janasgenealogyandfamilyhistory.blogspot.com/2013/09/follow-friday-fab-finds-for-september_27.html

    Have a great weekend!

    1. Heather,this show is a dream come to reality for me. I have searched for months for a reliable resource for studying my lineage back to the Revolutionary War Period. The geneologists on the show are witty,. engaging, and capable of generating the kind of excitement that would endear many to the viewership.Thank you so much. I just watched the show for Belmont in Nashville. I would like to be on this show....From John Witherspoon MD

  5. I am Canadian and have close relatives all over the USA who, of course, share my family story. I submitted last year but the fields are geared to USA only. I wonder if they actually read my submission. FYI Here is my story:
    A 100-year old family secret
    ( Written by Mandy Seeley (an Ancestry.com employee) and is republished with permission of Ancestry.com )
    David Dossett, an Ancestry.commember from Canada, grew up thinking he and his ancestors were white, Protestant, and from Scotland. After doing some research on Ancestry.com, he found a completely different story. Today’s Member Monday post describes how David found out his ancestors were actually black, Hebrew, and from Jamaica.

    In 2009, David decided to start doing some research after feeling frustrated that he couldn’t help his kids with their family tree assignments in school. His grandfather had never been very forthcoming with information about their family. During the search, David found a ‘message in a bottle’ on Rootsweb from Jenny, a cousin in the U.S. he never knew existed. The online tree information pointed to a different family origin than what David had been told. He contacted Jenny, and after learning she didn’t have a lot of documentation, he jumped onAncestry.com. He started a free-trial membership to view a document and discovered his family had traveled on the SS Admiral Sampson from Kingston, Jamaica to Kingston, Ontario, Canada. Jenny had also found records indicating a daughter was born in Jamaica, but never made it to Canada. From the information he learned, David formed more questions: Why did his family lie about where they were born, about their religion, and did they leave behind a daughter in Jamaica- and why would they?
    When meeting with his cousin Jenny, she showed him a copy of his grandfather’s birth certificate showing his birthplace as Jamaica. However, a military record from 1917 lists David’s grandfather’s birthplace as Toronto, Canada. Why the change? In the early 1900’s, the Canadian government imposed restrictions on how many non-white immigrants could enter the country. In addition, black people were treated poorly. So in an effort to be successful and gain acceptance, David believes his family started saying they were from Scotland instead. According to Jenny, who heard the family stories from an aunt, some family members went to great lengths to hide where they were from a few years after they got to Canada. They wouldn’t go out in the sun, and applied lemon juice to their skin in hopes of lightening it.
    After learning this, David traveled to Jamaica to try and learn more. In the process, he learned the Jamaican genealogist helping him was his cousin! Through new records they uncovered, he discovered his grandfather was Hebrew, while his grandmother was Methodist. Per Jamaican culture, the children were given the choice which religion they wanted to follow and many children chose the religion of their mothers. This would explain why many of his ancestors listed Methodist, not Hebrew as their religion on the records.
    What about the rumor of the daughter that was left behind? Because of the times, David and Jenny tried to theorize why this daughter didn’t make it. Was she left behind? But why would the family do that? After a year and a half of searching, David’s Jamaican cousin showed him death records indicating the daughter in question had actually died, as a one-year-old, before the family left Jamaica.
    This 100-year old family secret was an amazing discovery for David. So much so that it landed a spot on BYUTV’s The Generations Project and he was able to share his family history journey with others. David said if not for all the records he found onAncestry.com, he never would have known the true origins of his family. He never would have understood why some of his family members were darker skinned, when they were supposedly all from Scotland. And he hopes that by sharing his story, more people will have the desire to dig in and find those buried family secrets

  6. I'd like to see them pick everyday people to jet around instead of celebrities to find their ancestry. Great post!

  7. As an avid and amateur genealogist, I find Genealogy Roadshow a bit frustrating. How do they find documents other than census records? Like gazette information and such? It would be helpful if they would show more about the process.

    1. I agree, but for now the focus of the TV show is to show the results, not the process. I think if you peruse the over 4,000 genealogy blogs out there you can find the answer to your question. This blog has a lot of information on using city directories, town histories, newspapers, deeds, probate records and other types of documents. Many other blogs do, too. Use the search function at geneabloggers.com to search for other research methods.