Monday, March 28, 2011

Thoughts on the "Who Do You Think You Are?" Steve Buscemi episode

Finally watched the episode last night and made it through 95 percent of the episode without so much as a tear - I think probably because I was so exhausted from my weekend away - but ended up tearing up toward the end, so anyone who's still betting, the record remains intact. :)

  • Was looking to see if I recognized any Valley Stream landmarks, as I am only four towns such luck!
  • It was really interesting to see how Buscemi's approach to acting and directing, trying to find the motivations of a character and really getting to know him, translated easily to his genealogical search - not that he was looking for a character per se but that he was hoping someone in his tree would have a compelling a writer who thinks about the motivations and stories of characters, I see myself doing the same thing with my family tree searches...
  • I think it's interesting to see what and who interests the person in particular who is searching - Steve probably could have kept tracing his family back, to see where they originally came from, but for him, Ralph Montgomery was the person who caught his attention, and the story of what happened to him and to his family is what drew Steve in.
  • Always enjoy seeing the Municipal Archives in Manhattan pop up...that place has been a godsend in my research...
  • This show is obviously done with the help of, and is obviously always used as an advertisement-inside-a-show for the website, but while that felt particularly in-your-face in this episode, with Steve using a lot more features and searches than they usually highlight, I didn't mind, because I really believe the website provides a valuable service, not just in being a place to find records, but in being a place to connect with distant cousins doing the same research. If Steve hadn't found and met up with his third cousin, it's possible he might never have known (or that at least it might have taken much longer to find out) what happened to Julia and Jane Montgomery after Ralph died.
  • It was nice to see, for a change, Steve helping with the research. So often on this show the celebrities just show up somewhere and are handed the documents they need, but this episode not only showed Buscemi thumbing through pages and bent over books and microfilm machines, but I think it also gave a sense of how tedious and let's face it, sometimes boring, the whole research process can be, despite the potential for rich and exciting payoffs in information.
  • It was interesting how Steve was able to find a family connection to depression and suicide and it was kind of sad how tragic a character Ralph Montgomery seemed to be, but it was when Steve was talking about how discovering all the terrible things his ancestors had to live through and how it made him realize how lucky he was with his own family and how it made their problems seem not so bad that I kind of teared up.
  • I was happy that, as someone who considered himself from the "country of Brooklyn" (I thought that was cute), that he was able to find the starting point of when his family left New Jersey and ended up in Brooklyn.


  1. I have come to consider this show a mixture of entertainment and advertising and I really enjoy watching it but because my husband usually watches with me and asks questions about things that we take for granted, I find myself becoming somewhat critical of certain things. I think the average person watching would have thought that Montgomery was Buscemi's ONLY great, great grandfather and that makes me wonder how they make their choices in ancestors on this show. In the Tim McGraw episode, as soon as they said "Chrisman" and they were looking in Missouri, I KNEW they were going to come back to Tennessee/Virginia to Isaac Chrisman because the man is already well researched and is in my own genealogy as a distant relation. Everything they said about the Chrisman lineage is very common knowledge for a lot of us who had ancestors from Tennessee and Virginia. I now wonder if they choose a particular line because it is already well researched and they know they can produce the documents without too much effort? Or do they choose a particular lineage for it's sensationalism such as that of Brooke Shields? Probably both!

  2. i always enjoy watching the show...i just wish i had the means to go to all the places that the stars get to go in researching their ancestors. ;)

  3. Lisa - I would think that the producers of the show have people doing some kind of research ahead of time for these celebrities or even before they ask certain celebrities to be on the show because nobody seems to hit that brick wall we all have to deal with at some point and everybody seems to find somebody with some kind of interesting story - it seems that some of the celebrities, like Lisa Kudrow and Kim Cattrall are looking for information on a particular person, but I think with everyone else they just follow the line with the most interesting information or just with the most readily available information.

  4. Gen Story Girl - if time and money weren't an issue for us non-celebrity types, genealogy would be a lot easier, that's for sure! :)

  5. I wanted to find the family on the 1870 census during the show. So today, I was looking on some indexes and haven't been successful in finding the family. I better not spend any more time. I guess that is why they didn't. But Ralph's death recorded was very revealing.

  6. Pat - I was wondering myself why they didn't use the 1870 census since Jane Montgomery was born in 1869, but I guess that's why. I have some ancestors I still can't find on certain census records, and I wonder if Ralph had abandoned his first family, it's possible he didn't want to be recorded as still being around in the 1870 census.