Last night’s episode of Who Do You Think You Are? started with a Puritan who fought against the king of England and took us all the way back to Charlemagne, one of the most powerful kings of Europe ever. What a journey in forty generations and one episode.
Like so many of us, Cindy began with no inkling of where her family came from beyond her great-grandparents… but on her first day of research she got back 10 generations to the ancestor who came from England in the 1630s!
No, it isn’t really this easy, and this episode is one of those where the behind-the-scenes if almost more interesting than what made it on air. One thousand hours of research went into the one-hour episode we saw last night. Scores of researchers examined scores of documents in archives across the world to lead Cindy precisely from the 1880 U.S. census to the Trowbridge genealogy book in Boston to old court records in New Haven… not to mention across the pond to the UK where even cooler documents and historic locations awaited.
What went into the making of this episode is what we as family historians must do: find the most compelling narrative(s) of all the different threads of discovery we make. With all one thousand hours of research, there must’ve been countless directions in which this episode could have gone; a family in America that long must have been present at all the major moments in our nation’s history. I might have focused in on the children Thomas left behind in New Haven when he went back to England, and how such a notable New England family came to thrive from such sad beginnings. But of all the research, the journey that stood out as not only most notable, but also most personally engaging was Thomas Trowbridge’s — a Puritan who fled to the colonies for religious freedom, sacrificed his family to fight the king who oppressed them & their people, and ultimately seems to have been a brave and honorable man.
Our trees are filled with so many great people with great life stories… which ones should you focus on passing down to your family?