There is something about the show Who Do You Think You Are? that hits an emotional chord and makes the viewer really connect with the discoveries made by the featured celebrities searching for their ancestors. I guess it's that history is so much more interesting and affecting when you hear the stories of individual lives. Most of our ancestors have had an impact on history and participated in events we may or may not have read about while in school, but we never knew their names or their stories. That's why I love genealogy—I might get a chance to uncover some of these untold stories.
This long-form advertisement for ancestry.com had this geneaology geek front and center. I enjoyed the first season, which featured producer Lisa Kudrow, Emmitt Smith, Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker, whose quest led to the discovery of a family participant in the Salem Witch trials.
I went on my own journey to discover my family's roots last summer, after I found out that one of my ancestors, Sarah Averill Wildes, was one of the first people tried and hanged as a witch in Salem on July 19, 1692. I came across this unknown bit of family history while searching on ancestry.com. Some interesting stuff can be found on the website if you're willing to go on a hunt. To access most vital records, ancestry.com is not free, but hiring a professional researcher or genealogist isn't either.
My grandmother hired a genealogist to help her trace her roots in the '60s. To become a member of the Colonial Dames she needed to perform extensive family research to prove and document our connection to a Revolution-era ancestor. But she didn't need to go as far back as the 1690s, so she never found out about this more infamous slice of our history. Parker's Salem ancestor had like mine been accused of witchcraft, but had a better ending. The court of oyer and terminer was dismissed before she could go to trial, so Parker's relative escaped execution.