Saturday, February 12, 2011

In Defense of Tim McGraw

I know I am going to take some heat for my comments, but here goes.

Episode two of season two of Who Do You Think You Are? (WDYTYA) featured country singer, Tim McGraw.  The show made a quick leap back to late 1700s Virginia and then wrapped up with early 1700s New York.

Every episode of  WDYTYA needs to be different in terms of historical content as well as personality in order to reach out to a broad group of people.  Last night's show was very different from the Vanessa Williams episode.  There weren't any emotional tugs or teary moments.  We weren't cheering Tim on in the same we were cheering on Vanessa.

The fact is that the Williams episode was more of a "chick flick" and the McGraw episode was more of "man's man" show.  I'm not saying that all genealogists like chick flicks but genealogists certainly do like a good story.  For me, last night's show was something that a regular guy could appreciate.  My husband is not into genealogy but I think he would have appreciated the McGraw show.  The Tim McGraw episode appealed to a much broader male audience.  If that's what it takes to get folks interested in researching their family history then I would consider the show a success.  So while everyone may have expected the episode to appeal more to women, ultimately it appealed more to men.

I found Tim McGraw to be genuine without being sappy.  His consistent curiosity throughout the show was his way of being a part of the discovery process.  Clearly, McGraw, who is not a genealogist, quickly grasped the concepts that were presented to him by the professionals.  The researchers got to shine in this episode and I appreciated that as well.

I found the historical topics to be very interesting.  I knew little about the frontier history of Virginia and its connection to Native Americans and George Washington.  So that was informative for me.  I was very happy to see the show feature the story of the Palatines, being descended from them myself.  It seems like the Palatines are a small segment of history that don't get featured prominently very much.

Was this episode the home run that the Vanessa Williams episode was?  Perhaps not, but I still think it was really good.  It reached out to a different demographic in a different way.  Hopefully the viewers will be inspired by this episode to look into their own family history.  If the audiences goes off and  has that first conversation with an uncle or an aunt to start learning about their history then that's success.

I think the Tim McGraw episode succeeded.  Maybe not in the way you were expecting but it definitely succeeded.


  1. Marian,
    I agree 100%. I ended up watching the entire program with my husband, mother and even our daughter, who stopped by.
    The Vanessa Williams episode didn't really seem to appeal to them the way Tim McGraw's did, I think mainly because of the way Tim's was presented. A more down to earth approach (outside the repository jumping of course)seem to be used with Tim than Vanessa. I certainly enjoyed this episode!
    Nice blog!

  2. I was wondering how they jumped so many generations. The woman told him they were going to check I hope that they didn't just pick out someone's line and go from there. Documentation, documentation, documentation!

  3. I agree also. If all the episodes were the same then it would be very boring. Vanessa Williams was interesting because of the photos that she was able to get. (We should all be that lucky.) Tim McGraw's had a different view. I learned a lot of history that you don't get in the history books. I hadn't even heard of the Palatines before last night. All the episodes should be a different as they will hold the viewers interest. I enjoyed last years episodes because some of the New England connections. I am looking forward to this years and maybe they will have Acadian/Canadian connections.

  4. Initially, I thought the episode wasn't that great, but after reading your article, I do agree with you. The bar was set pretty high with VW's episode but not every episode is going to have the same revelations and emotions. Some families may just have generation after generation of regular, hard-working people that aren't going to have anything 'spectacular' about them, and there's nothing wrong with that. However, I think the viewers do want to see ancestors that are famous or have done something historical/out of the ordinary, which is probably why they skipped over so many generations. I do think, though, they could have given a little more information on what happened to the families along the way, but it could just be that they didn't find anything.

  5. The Tim McGraw episode has been my favorite so far! I learned I have a connection to Tim McGraw with Jost Hite as our mutual ancestor.

    I have been wanting ancestry to do a episode featuring someone with roots back to the early 1700's in Virginia. My maternal line hails from there and almost all of my lines in that direction are documented. I knew as soon as they said Nave and Chrisman from Missouri I might have a connection as those are Virginia names in my lines and I think ancestry was able to skip seven generations b/c the lines are documented with DAR and SAR- although this wasn't mentioned in the episode. Tim's ancestors, The Chrisman's were pioneer settlers in Missoui and I'm sure they are documented well too. But, what can compare with being acquainted with George Washington and then GW referencing your family 20 years later?

    Of course, on a personal note, this has been one of the first people ancestry has featured that I actually knew who he was before the show (don't watch TV except for something like WDYTYA).

    Can't wait until next Friday night. As the football player in the first season said, "This is getting gooood."

  6. I sat and giggled at how many were southwestern VA researchers were saying I am related! You can't do research in that area without meeting up with the Hites.

  7. Okay just watched this online. First of all let me say I love Country Music but am not a Tim McGraw fan at all!!! I was very hesitant about tonight's show but decided to at least give it a chance. I loved this episode more than Vanessa Williams.

    You mentioned there were no emotional tugs like Vanessa's..... I got teary eyed a few times in this one. Like others, I loved the historical aspects of and the things I learned about history. I also found it fascinating that they were able to stay in the US rather than travel the country in search of records.

    I love the saying, "Who do you know who you are if you don't know where you came from?" I think with Tim's episode you see the similarities in different ancestor through his life. He mentioned the entrepreneur in his early ancestors and him selling everything and getting on that bus to Nashville. In my own research I have found the similar things in my ancestors that I see I have inherited from them.

    Thought they did a great job on the show. I was disappointed they jumped the generation to get to the Hite Family, but none the less fascinating story!!!

  8. I guess I'm in the minority here. I think this was my least favorite episode of the entire series. I don't know what it was. It did seem that
    Tim was less emotionally involved in the process than some of the earlier male celebrities. Some of the other male viewer comments I've seen besides my own have said the same thing.So while I
    didn't HATE it, it just didn't seem to have the impact on me that the other episodes have had. But different strokes for different folks.

  9. Not emotional? How about the lead-in about his abusive (first) father and the difficulty in meeting his real father? As a map fiend, I loved the references to maps and surveying. That 8 generation jump could have been explained better. And anyone who has been to the Library of Congress knows how awe-inspiring that is the first time through the doors. Two thumbs up!

  10. Interesting post and great comments. I saw emotion, heard Tim choke up early in the program.

    I did not care for the multi generation jump that was glazed over.

    I heard a lot of "WOW" when they explained the 16 year old George Washington staying in the Hite's home. I saw some "awe" in his reactions.

    Obviously Tim is a different personality, reacts differently.

    I still think this years lower key reactions of the guests is easier to watch.

    Now, if they would just explain the research process a LITTLE bit more each week.

  11. Ok Sara and others, yes there was emotion in the program. *I* just didn't respond emotionally. Perhaps my emotions were turned off last night :)

  12. This was my favorite episode so far, both because McGraw has the background that is closest to mine and because I prefer a little more restraint and less mawkishness in the emotions expressed. I also appreciated the maps and the depictions of the historical situations in which his ancestors were living.

  13. At first I didn't like the Tim McGraw episode. In fact, I actually fell asleep on it last night. Part of that was I was just exhausted but for whatever reason, I also didn't find it that interesting.

    This morning I tried watching it, again, online and had a better reaction to it but I still didn't respond to it the way that I did the Vanessa Williams episode. Of all the episodes to date (Season 1 and 2), for whatever reason, this was one of my least favorite episodes. That being said, I did learn about the Palatines, which I had never heard of until now.

    From reading everyone's responses, my thoughts from the genealogist / family researcher point of view is that perhaps people tend to respond emotionally to the episodes that are a lot like their own research.

  14. I enjoyed this episode for the maps but honestly, I wanted to know more about the great-grandmother that was "the glue of the family." The Washington connection was interesting but I was left wanting to know more specifics about grandma's early life.

  15. I am behind reading posts, and I didn't get a chance to see that episode, but look forward to seeing it in reruns. I have to say that some of the shows seem especially sappy and contrived. I am interested more in the history than what the stars feel about what they just learned. I think this one might appeal to me more.