As I'm reading, I sometimes turn on the TV for background noise. It's not ideal, though, because sometimes it catches my attention and takes it away from my reading. That's what's happened tonight. I turned on a PBS program with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., African American Lives. The basic idea of the program is that Gates leads several guests in researching the genealogical history of their families.
The program fascinates me on several levels, not the least of which is that Gates goes around to libraries and looks at books and records and stuff! How cool is THAT? And it's riveting to watch the research process.
Gates goes to a resource or resource person, and talks to them about a resource, and how it might help him find his family, and then they take that resource and bring out something about Gates' family or one of his guest's family, often making connections between them. For example, Gates learns that one can research African Americans who fought for the Union during the Civil War, and finds out that one of his ancestors served, and was later reburied in Arlington National Cemetery. Then they turn those tools to look at one of the guest's family members, and find a white who served on the Confederate side. So there's LOTS to think about!
One of the things I like best about the show is that Gates finds something out, and he's interested and happy to have learned something, and then he asks further questions. Learning something opens up more questions, rather than closing questions off. That's how really cool research should work, isn't it?
I knew about some of the basic resources they talk about, court records, military service records, wills, federal censuses, but they get at specifics in just fascinating ways.
I'll confess: a couple of my family members have done some genealogical stuff on my family, and I've always found it uninteresting. I just can't get into the focus on names and such.
But Gates' enthusiasm for learning, and his guests', too, draw me totally in.
This is exactly what reality television should be! (Well, the science type shows, too. But this is even more cool!) (I really need to get back to MY reading for classes! But dang, this is great stuff!)