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From the Green Valley News, Sunday March 14 2010, page C2

Genealogy Today, by Betty Lou Malesky, CG

Five Years and Still Going

This week my column celebrates its fifth anniversary having debuted on March 16, 2005. That first column, "Don't Forget the Women," won an award in the newspaper column category of the 2006 International Society of Family History Writers and Editors writing competition. Today you are reading the 87th "Genealogy Today" column.

If you missed reading any or are bored with life in general, past columns are archived on the Green Valley Genealogical Society website, Current columns appear on the Green Valley News website at

I'm often asked how I find a topic to write about every two weeks. Thus far, that has never been a problem as family history research is so diverse and so interesting, at least it is to me. The hardest part of column writing is covering a topic in about 500 words. Often the solution is to run a series on a particular subject as I did on the Genealogical Proof Standard earlier this year.

Once again this is March, Women's Family History month. A new television series "Who Do You Think You Are?" debuted Friday evening, March 5 at 7 p.m. on NBC Channel 4 in Tucson. Appropriately enough, the first subject researched was a woman, actress Sarah Jessica Parker.

An interesting study, Perker knew little about her ancestry. Her father was German, but her mother remembered she had an ancestor named "Hodge" born in 1850. While little was known about him, an obituary claimed his father died in 1849 on the way to California. Actually, he had left his pregnant wife to seek his fortune during the Gold Rush, became ill and died in California in 1850. The professionals hired by NBC were able to track the Hodge family back to Salem, Massachusetts.

To Sarah's surprise and dismay, one of the Hodge line married Rebecca Elwell, a young woman accused of witchcraft during the Salem hysteria of the late 1600s. Rebecca was fortunate, however; the Salem court decided to end the execution of supposed witches in 1692 and her case never went to trial. She lived happily ever after until the age of 82.

This first program was interesting and well done. It's only failing was in making it seem that 200 years of research could be accomplished in just a little time. As Sarah traveled back and forth across the country meeting experts in libraries and archives they all had documents and records of proof ready and waiting for her arrival. Ladies and gentlemen, it just doesn't work that way!

The plan is to trace the roots of a different celebrity each week through April 23. The current schedule according to NBC features March 12 - Emmitt Smith; March 19 - Lisa Kudrow; March 26 - Matthew Broderick; April 2 - Brooke Shields; April 9 - Susan Sarandon; and April 23 - Spike Lee. Whether it continues longer likely depends on audience ratings. A similar series has run on the BBC in England for several years and is so popular that nearly 12,000 Brits attended a Who Do You Think You Are? Conference in February 2009.

Thank you, dear readers, for your favorable comments that have kept this column alive for five years. If you have any suggestions for topics or questions of a general nature that I could address, please send them to me at Focus must be on methodology or general research in the United States as I do not conduct foreign research. I decided many years ago, that when I have a chance to go to Europe, I prefer to see the sights not dusty old records.

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