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|Ancestors in the Attic|
By Dave Obee
I have had a sneak peek at the first three episodes of Ancestors in the Attic, the new series being presented in Canada this fall on History Television, in partnership with Reader's Digest.
The show will be broadcast at 9:30 p.m. ET and PT Wednesdays, starting Oct. 18.
Be warned: It's fast-paced. I have spent longer looking for parking spots near libraries and archives than these people take to solve a genealogical mystery.
Much of the speed comes from Jeff Douglas, the show's host. He's not your prototypical genealogist, what with the leaping and bouncing about, but in many ways he is the glue that holds the show together -- and the attraction that will make the show appeal to non-genealogists.
Paul McGrath is the show's staff genealogist, the person doing much of the travelling in search of the truth. He has two segment in each of the first three shows, with a panel made up of Douglas, Ryan Taylor, Fawne Stratford-Devai and Dr. Kevin James solving the third mystery o the evening.
It's taken more than a year for History Television to bring this show together. That is because the staff had to solve real mysteries before they could event start writing Ancestors in the Attic.
Those mysteries have been submitted by viewers from across the country. The challenges faced in the first episode include:
Subsequent episodes cover genealogical mysteries from one end of Canada to the other, and even take us to England.
Odds are, every genealogist will find something to nit-pick about the series, and that's to be expected. Boiling months of research into a few minutes of talk can be difficult, and it means that not all details can be covered as the story unfolds.
Besides, nit-picking is part of the fun. What matters, though, is whether the series is likely to give you new ideas for your own research, or help you to clarify your strategies. And the answer is, it will do that.
Ancestors in the Attic has to appeal to as wide an audience as possible, and that was quite a challenge. Genealogists may think Douglas's antics are a bit silly, but the reality is that his presence will ensure wider audience.
Non-genealogists may think the genealogists are boring. If this show can prove the opposite, then we should all be grateful.
Subsequent episodes will deal with a variety of difficult mysteries, including the true identity of a murder victim, the final resting place of a war hero, the location of an ancestor's antebellum plantation and much more.
Sometimes, the sleuths fail to find the answer they are looking for. A brickwall is part of genealogy, as we all know. But it is still interesting to see how they tried to get over it.
Ancestors in the Attic is worth watching. It's on History Television -- sorry, the Canadian version only -- starting Oct. 18.
The I Am Canadian Rant -- the role that made Jeff Douglas a star
CBC news report -- on the I Am Canadian phenomenon