My wife and I have been watching installments of "Who Do You Think You Are" on NBC on Friday evenings. It's fair to say its much more than an advertisement for Ancestry.com, as producer Lisa Kudro has managed to put together some intriguing stories of various celebrities discovering their roots, making connections, and filling in gaps in half-remembered family histories.
After spending the first few minutes of each show disdainfully complaining that rich movie stars don't need to be treated to the exhaustive work of teams of archivists and genealogists—they can afford to hire people like that—we settle in for what always turns out to be a suspenseful and touching story.
Of special note to Civil War buffs are the episodes on Emmitt Smith—descended from slaves, and slave owners—and Friday's (yesterday's) episode with Matthew Broderick. Broderick, of course, portrayed Colonel Shaw in what is still one of the best Civil War movies ever made, Glory, but he never knew about his own Civil War ancestor.
I heartily recommend watching the Broderick episode on Hulu.com or through iTunes when you get a chance. It's pretty fascinating. Not only does he discover some amazing facts about his grandfather on the battlefields of WWI, Broderick follows another ancestor, on his mother's side, from Gettysburg to Peachtree Creek. The end of that journey is both surprising, and deeply moving.
I won't spoil it here.
In the photo above, Matthew Broderick with Gordon Jones, director of the Atlanta History Center, who graciously spent a lot of time with The Civil War Forum when we visited Atlanta a couple years ago.