ANCESTORS is a series of ten 30-minute programs. The series is
hosted by Jim and Terry Willard, amateur genealogists and former high school teachers, who
introduce the topic of each episode.
Each episode has two components, a "mini-documentary" and a
"how-to" segment, with the exception of the tenth episode, Leaving a
Legacy, which has three mini-documentaries and no how-to segment.
MINI-DOCUMENTARIES (approximately 10 minutes)
ANCESTORS goes on location to visit with family historians of various
social, economic and ethnic backgrounds. The purpose is to find out why they began a
search for family history, and how the search has impacted their lives.
HOW TO GET STARTED (approximately 10 minutes)
Each mini-documentary is followed by an instructional conversation between
the hosts and various genealogical experts. These friendly, informative conversations are
designed to help beginning genealogists get started.
Along the way, the internationally acclaimed 4:2:2 Videographic Design of
Bristol, England, provides ANCESTORS with visual support that is at once elegant and
Each episode ends with Jim and Terry reminding viewers of research tips
and referring them to local resources for further assistance in starting the search for
Episode One: Getting Started
The series' first episode explores the simple and universal question,
"Who am I?" with tips on how to start a search for roots, including how to fill
out a pedigree chart, and why successful research means starting with yourself.
Mini-documentary: Victor Villaseñor, author
As a young child, Victor had pride and respect for his Mexican-American
heritage. But when he confronted prejudice in elementary school, Victor began to resent
his parents and reject his heritage. As an adult, Victor learned that the only way to
understand the present and have hope for the future is to discover pride and inspiration
in the stories of his family's past.
Guest Expert: Desmond Walls Allen
Desmond is a co-author of Beginner's Guide to Family History Research.
She is a popular speaker at National Genealogical Society Conferences and a member of the
Genealogical Speaker's Guild.
Episode Two: Looking at Home
In the second episode, viewers learn how to start at home, in some of the
most unlikely places, to find clues to their ancestors and pieces of the past. It includes
a brief discussion of how to handle and store fragile items, like old photographs, and an
introduction to the Family Group Record.
Mini-documentary: Shannon Applegate, author & Susan Applegate,
A family farmhouse in Oregon's Yoncalla valley held silent clues for
divorcée Shannon Applegate, who was looking for missing pieces to her life. With the help
of Susan, her newfound cousin, Shannon pieced together a rich tapestry of family history
through countless objects collected by seven generations of Applegates. This legacy and
kinship renewed Shannon's strength and sharpened her self-understanding.
Guest Expert: Antonia Cottrell Martin
New York, New York
Antonia is past-president of the New York chapter of the Afro-American
Historical and Genealogical Society. Antonia has taught workshops for beginning
genealogists, and also served as chairperson of the Family History and Genealogy Committee
for the Schomberg Corporation.
Episode Three: Gathering Family Stories
Mining the memories of older family members is the subject of episode
three. Tips for interviewing family members include how to help older family members
"open up," how to ask thought-provoking questions, and how to record the
Mini-documentary: Fabiana Chiu, Staff, Museum of Chinese in the
New York, New York
As a recent immigrant to the United States, Fabiana had mixed feelings
about her Chinese-Peruvian heritage. Wanting to know more, Fabiana traveled with her
parents to Peru to interview living relatives. Through her journey, she made some
surprising discoveries about her Chinese heritage and the meaning of "family."
Guest Expert: Bill Zimmerman
New York, New York
Bill is the author of How To Tape Instant Oral Biographies and has
been a journalist for 25 years. He is currently a special projects editor for Newsday.
In public schools, he conducts oral history workshops called "Grandparent's
Episode Four: The Paper Trail
Ancestors "come alive" through the records they left behind. In
the fourth episode, viewers will learn how to search records to fill in the blanks on
pedigree charts and family group records. A special emphasis is given to compiled vs.
original records and basic research strategies.
Mini-documentary: Rafael Guber, artist
New York, New York
Rafael Gubers deep respect for his immigrant ancestors prompted him
to re-create, with the help of the United Jewish Appeal-Federation of New York, the
precarious and profound Ellis Island experience. Rafael also transforms old ship's
passenger lists into contemporary works of art.
Guest Expert: John Philip Colletta, Ph.D.
John conducts workshops for the National Archives and works part-time at
the Library of Congress. He also teaches at the Smithsonian and addresses genealogical,
historical, and ethnic organizations across the country. He has published many articles
and authored the books, They Came in Ships: A Guide to Finding Your Immigrant
Ancestor's Arrival Record and Finding Italian Roots: The Complete Guide for
Guest Expert: Sharon DeBartolo Carmack
Sharon specializes in Italian-American family and social history and
writing family history narratives that place ancestors into historical perspective. She is
currently Editor of the Association of Professional Genealogists Quarterly and the
newsletter of the Genealogical Speakers Guild.
Episode Five: Libraries and Archives
This episode takes the fear out of library and archive research. Jim and
Terry go on location to the largest genealogical library in the world, the Family History
Library in Salt Lake City, where staff and patrons offer their personal tips for a
successful research trip.
Mini-documentary: Tom Madrid, police officer
Tom didn't have the first clue about where to start looking for his family
history. Being Hispanic-American, he doubted he could find much of his family's records in
the States. His paper trail began in his own backyard, at the public library. Traipsing
through overgrown cemeteries and digging around the ruins of an ancestor's plaza, Tom
finally uncovered hundreds of years of his family's American story.
Library Field Trip: The Family History Library
Salt Lake City, Utah
The Family History Library is the largest genealogical resource in the
world, housing a vast collection that includes more than 1.9 million rolls of microfilm
and 68,000 volumes of compiled family history information. Over 3,000 patrons from around
the world visit the library each day.
Episode Six: Census and Military Records
Episode six shows how census and military records can be a rich source of
Mini-documentary: Garry Bryant, photojournalist
Garry, like many Americans, was a soldier during the Vietnam War. Instead
of feeling patriotic about his service, he was depressed and ashamed. After he was
discharged from the Air Force, his grandmother reached out to him, and soon Garry was
involved in a family history that revealed twenty-seven ancestors who had served in
American wars. As he learned of their sacrifices, his image of country and self were
Guest Expert: Curt Witcher
Fort Wayne, Indiana
Curt is president of the Federation of Genealogical Societies, as well as
first vice-president of the National Genealogical Society. He is also department manager
for the Reynolds Historical Genealogical Department of the Allen County Public Library and
serves as the Federations national coordinator of the Civil War Soldiers Index
Episode Seven: African American Research
Episode seven addresses some of the challenges inherent in African
American research. Although it is often difficult, research strategies specific to these
ethnic challenges can yield rich and interesting information.
Mini-documentary: Colette DeVerge, bookkeeper
Los Angeles, California
Colettes experiences while traveling in Africa have helped her
connect with the spirits of her ancestors. At the Martin Luther King Methodist Church in
South Central Los Angeles, she meets with other members of the California African American
Genealogical Society (CAAGS). Colette and other members of CAAGS share personal insights
on how the search for roots has powerfully affected their lives.
Guest Expert: Tony Burroughs
Tony teaches genealogy at Chicago State University and is the president of
Black Roots, a company that provides products for African-American genealogy. He is on the
board of directors of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society in Washington,
D.C. and is a popular speaker at national genealogical conventions.
Episode Eight: Your Medical Heritage
The life-saving potential of family medical pedigrees is the subject of
the eighth episode. Viewers will see how a medical pedigree differs from a standard
pedigree chart, with discussion about issues that naturally arise for individuals who seek
to learn about their genetic history.
Mini-documentary: Carol Krause, news correspondent
When Carol's parents both died of cancer, she and her sisters created a
family medical tree, using death certificates to document their relatives' causes of
death. The result was "ominous," but lifesaving. Because the sisters acted
promptly on what they learned, they were able to take greater control of their health and
Guest Expert: Dr. Raymond L. White
Salt Lake City, Utah
Dr. White was a pioneer in developing the molecular tools for construction
of a map of genetic markers for the human genome. The map has made it possible for
investigators to pinpoint chromosomal locations of a number of genes that are responsible
for inherited diseases, and several of those genes have now been isolated. He is the
Director of the Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah.
Guest Expert: Vickie L. Venne
Salt Lake City, Utah
Vickie is a genetic counselor at the High Risk Breast Cancer Clinic of the
Huntsman Cancer Institute. She is also the president of the National Society of Genetic
Episode Nine: High-Tech Help
New technologies, including computers, have revolutionized the family
history process. In episode nine viewers see how a computer can be a genealogists
Mini-documentary: Inmates at a state prison
ANCESTORS interviews three avid genealogists who have never made a
trip to a library to do family history research. They've never visited an ancestor's grave
or been to a genealogical society meeting. In fact, they never cared about their family
history until they became inmates in a maximum security prison which allowed access to
computers. Through genealogical research, Blaine, Roy, and Dennis are learning about the
power of family ties and their responsibility to society. These insights are the most
powerful rehabilitation tools some prison psychologists have ever seen.
Guest Expert: Richard Eastman
New York, New York
Richard is founder and manager of CompuServe's Genealogy and Genealogy
Support Forums, as well as an experienced genealogist and network consultant. He is the
author of Your Roots: Total Genealogy Planning on Your Computer."
Episode Ten: Leaving a Legacy
The final episode explores the provocative question: "One hundred
years from now, will anyone know who you were?"
Mini-documentary: Eric More Marshall, President, More Family
Roxbury, New York
The More family has held reunions every five years since 1889. In 1915,
they began filming their reunions. The seventeen films now in existence are a grand
montage of familiar faces and rich tradition.
Mini-documentary: Nancilu Burdick, retired school teacher
Buffalo, New York
As a young child, Nancilu slept under her grandma's quilts, but she didn't
suspect the stories that were behind them. Years later, at the request of her aunt,
Nancilu began to stitch together the fascinating life history of her artistic Grandma
Talula and her quilts.
Mini-documentary: Hannibal Lokumbe, musician
Gathering his family at the newly-found grave of his ancestor, a former
slave, Hannibal celebrated the legacy of his great-great-grandfather in African ritual and
dance. Younger family members washed the feet of their elders as a sign of honor and love.
The oldest and youngest living descendants were presented to the spirit of the ancestor,
and the ritual closed by dancing on the ancestral grave.
NO GUEST EXPERT.