Many of us are homebound now and looking for something new to do. But to many people who more recently started their quest to discover their family history, something old can be something new. In 1997 the first national television series that dealt with family history and genealogy made its debut on PBS.

Entitled “Ancestors,” the series was hosted by Jim and Terry Willard, a husband and wife team of amateur genealogists who were “discovered” by the series producer at a genealogical conference. Alex Haley, the author of Roots, also contributed to the initial program planning. The series consists of twenty-three 30-minute episodes, each covering some aspect of genealogy. Every episode of this series can be viewed online for free through Brigham Young University by using this link:

A breakdown of each episode is as follows: 1) Getting Started asks the question, “Who am I?” and explains how to start a search for your roots. 2) Looking at Home explains how to begin your quest in your own backyard. 3) Gathering Family Stories reveals the hidden information available through conducting and recording interviews with older family members. 4) The Paper Trail explores how to uncover your ancestors in the records they left behind. 5) Libraries and Archives takes a look at how to access records in these repositories. 6) Census and Military Records focuses on two of the most commonly used records in genealogical research and how they can reveal biographical information. 7) African American Research deals with the unique challenges in searching for black ancestors. 8) Your Medical Heritage discusses the life-saving potential of knowing your family medical pedigree. 9) High-Tech Help looks at how technology is contributing to the field of family history. 10) Leaving a Legacy asks the question, “One hundred years from now, will anyone know who I was?” Hear the stories of three different Americans and how they have chosen to create a family history legacy. 11) Family Records explores how to utilize documents and other items that can be found in your own home; journals, diaries, letters, photographs, and family Bibles that can bring your ancestors to life. 12) Compiled Records describes how to evaluate and interpret the records already put together by someone else and how to share your findings with others. 13) Genealogy and Technology looks at the use of computers for research (remember, this was 1997). Watch Megan Smolenyak find cousins she didn’t know she had. 14) Vital Records focuses on using the civil or governmental records on births, marriages, and deaths. Watch Jeff Gallup reconnect with his Italian heritage in his ancestral village of Piana. 15) Religious Records focuses on the records kept by churches on baptisms, marriages, and burials. Learn how to make the most of records found in church registries. 16) Cemetery Records scrutinizes the final records kept on death and burial and shows how they contain clues to important dates and family relationships. 17) Military Records reveals the steps to success as Susan Hadler uses military records to connect with the father she never knew. 18) Newspapers as Records shows how old newspaper stories detail the escapades of one woman’s great-grandmother. 19) Census Records contain names, ages, birthplaces, relationships, immigration information, occupations, and much more. Use these records to your advantage. 20) Writing a Family History is one of the most effective ways to share your information with others. Learn how to organize and communicate your findings. 21) Probate Records shows that the death of an ancestor can provide valuable information to the family historian. Learn about records that come from the probate process and the details to be found in wills and the probate courts. 22) Immigration Records, including naturalization records and passenger arrivals, are the key to helping us accurately trace our lines back to our ancestors’ homelands. 23) Records at Risk. Learn about the efforts to preserve the irreplaceable records that are at risk of destruction around the world. 

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