Genealogy on Film and TV

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Maybe you’re your family’s unofficial genealogist. Maybe you pore, dig, and hunt for facts about your ancestry, but no one seems to recognize how hard it is. Maybe you’ve just caught the family tree fever and just signed up at Full Family Tree, and are wondering who else is here that shares your passion.


Well, there is good news. You aren’t alone. The truth is, genealogy has always been popular. It just takes a few internet searches, family reunions, and shared photos to find likeminded individuals.


The subject is so popular that there are even movies and TV shows made that are based on it. So if you ever feel discouraged in your search, or just want to feel a common bond of purpose or excitement with other unofficial genealogists in the world, check out a few of these relevant movies and TV programs:


  1. German-American Trilogy is a short film made in 2003, containing 3 stories of people discovering and tracing their family roots back to German ancestry.


  1. Centennial. This popular and acclaimed 1979 TV mini-series, based on James A. Michener’s book, spans multi-generations and families of early settlers through modern times, from the mid-1700’s to the late 1970’s. It was one of the few television programs to offer a balanced history of how Native American tribes were exterminated or driven from their land following multiple broken peace treaties.


  1. Roots. This profound 1977 mini-series spurred the hearts and minds of African Americans and Caucasians alike toward a deeper understanding of generations, slavery, and personal family roots. Roots was based on a bestselling book by Alex Haley.


  1. Genealogy Roadshow was a 2013 PBS show where genealogists helped Tennessee residents trace their family trees back generations. One was a person who believed he was a descendent of Davy Crockett. A woman believed she was from the Hatfield family (of the famous Hatfields and McCoys), and a man was reunited with long-lost cousins.



  1. Breaking Amish: LA was a 2013 television show in which Amish youth struggled with the desire to stay in their families, and leave home in search of independence and individualism. In the episode titled “Into the Fire”, a genealogist delivers information to Betsy that prompts a trip to Mexico.


  1. In the 1964 TV series, The Addams Family, Gomez enlists the help of a genealogist to trace his roots in hopes of finding notable ancestors to brag about to an uppity acquaintance named Pomeroy.


  1. Reunion is a 2006 movie about a hardened professor who attends her dysfunctional family’s reunion seeking a kidney transplant from her estranged sister.


  1. My Family Tree is a 2013 movie about a 16-year-old boy who has an intriguing school assignment: Trace his family tree. His journey uncovers people, places, and events that are unique and memorable.


  1. Clementine is a documentary about an Israeli who investigates his ancestry and discovers a military officer, a filmmaker, a blacksmith trained by Nazis, and more.


  1. The Authorized Biography of Crazy Horse and His Family Part One. This 2006 documentary is self-explanatory, but with a twist. The history of Crazy Horse is told by his grandsons, and covers events back to the mid-1700’s.





Tammy Ruggles

Tammy Ruggles is a freelance writer based in Kentucky. She enjoys art, photography, film, and spending time with family and friends.

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