I just love the Who Do You Think You Are? series. Each episode is like a genealogy “who done it,” chocked full of history and sleuthing, travel and of course, good guys and bad guys. Try to ignore the unfortunately huge commercial load. The mute button works miracles and you’ll have plenty of time for a BR break or to pop some popcorn or even to go online and check your DNA results if you haven’t done that yet for the day.
On this upcoming Sunday, March 12th, the new episode of Who Do You Think You Are? airs at 10/9c on TLC. Actress Julie Bowen uncovers fascinating stories of her ancestors on both sides of her family.
First, Julie travels to Chicago to learn about her mother’s side of the family. She knew that her ancestor, “Big Charlie” was the artist in the family. Born the son of a plumber in Denver, Big Charlie headed east, instead of west, to Chicago, the land of opportunity for an up and coming artist.
Big Charlie’s art was fresh and new and even by today’s standards, looks quite contemporary. Still in his early 20s, he founded his own company and was the “big bright light of advertising illustration.”
Charlie was the poster boy for the American dream, ambitious and talented, but then…the rest of the story. You knew there had to be a “rest of the story,” right?
The next revelation pulls Julie down a dark hole…one that affected my ancestors too, but that I had never heard of before this episode. A dark chapter in American history that is oh so relevant once again today and is guaranteed to make you think.
You’ll have to watch this one for yourself. All I can say is that you’ll never, ever guess this plot twist…and I don’t want to spoil it for you. Big Charlie wasn’t exactly what he seemed, nor quite how he was remembered by the family.
Next, Julie looks to discover more about her father’s ancestor, a man rumored to have been a doctor associated with the underground railroad. Is this story too good to be true? Julie said she had never looked into this family lore because she loved the legend so much just the way it was. She didn’t want to risk finding out that maybe it wasn’t accurate, that maybe her ancestor had been a slave-owner instead. I think, in one way or another, we can all identify with that sentiment.
Julie travels to Washington County, Pennsylvania, and you know it’s going to be a good story when your ancestor’s home is now the local historical society. How often has that ever happened to me? Exactly none!
Julie learns that her 3 times great-grandfather, Francis Julius LeMoyne, was a highly sought after speaker and a radical abolitionist who risked his life and the lives of his family repeatedly, for years, decades actually, to help free fugitive slaves. Francis’s activism began long before the movement to free the slaves became a reality. Francis signed on early, before 1837, as a founder of the American Anti-Slavery Society. All of this was at incredible personal risk to Francis and his family who clearly supported his efforts.
Francis’s lectures and meetings didn’t always go well, even in the North where he lived. At one event, when a group was meeting at his house in the garden, an unhappy crowd gathered outside. Standing on the balcony, surveying the unruly crowd, Francis’s father, also a physician, suggested that if the crowd became threatening, that he kept bee hives underneath the porch roof. I’ll let you guess what happened next!
The revelations that Julie experienced in Washington County are as heart-warming as the ones in Chicago were bone-chilling.
Julie, in the end, can’t help but notice the parallels between the acts of her ancestors with what’s going on in today’s world. She reflects that it’s nice to have heroes and that your ancestors, for bad or good, make you ask yourself “who you want to stand up for.” It’s certainly “not the easy choice to fight for people who had no choice.”
It’s difficult to discover ancestors whose actions and sentiments chafe at everything we believe. It’s emotionally unsettling, and for Julie to find both a hero and a villain in such a short time must have been akin to an ancestral emotional roller-coaster ride. Her perspective is both encouraging and enlightening. She closes by saying that we must “love them, hear their story, and find a better way.”
A great episode that will keep you on your toes all the way to the end.
For those of us without access are you going to tell us next week what Charlie’s sin was?
The older episodes are available on the TLC site and also on YouTube. Not sure how long until they are available after they show.
So happy they are (eventually) posted on youtube. I dont have tv.
I traveled to Ulster Co, NY and found a stone house on the tour that belonged to my ancestor. It was a thrill.
It was also a thrill to uncover a soil and grass covered headstone in between two others that was a 4-5 g grandmother’s headstone in Indiana.
I am happy to see the “Who do you think you are” people are doing both sides of a family. Last week’s went one line all the way to infinity it seems and only one line. I always want to know ALL the stories on all the lines so have two being covered will be good.
Roberta, Ancestry are doing something incredibly stupid with their DNA Circles… did you see?
I just checked and my Circles look exactly the same. What are they doing?
I hope it goes on YouTube our government TV stations are too stingy to buy anything they think the general public might be interested in, it is cooking shows, cops, quizzes and they think we are so dumb that even showing the same episode two nights in a row or the same week we wont even notice, even articles on the news are often a week or fortnight after they have been in an overseas newspaper.