Suddenly, Genealogy is… Cool?

 It used to be that family history research was the domain of sweet, little old ladies in dusty microfiche libraries. Then came shows like PBS’s American Experience and National Geographic’s Human Family Tree that made family history work high drama, high-tech, and, even, dare I say it, sexy. The newest show to draw on genealogy for entertainment and maybe enlightenment is NBC’s Who Do You Think You Are?, a reality-style series that delves into the family history of celebrities like Emmit Smith, Susan Sarandon, and Spike Lee. 

The show concept has me wondering: when did this happen? Were we just tired of reality shows packed with badly behaved contestants in outlandish, as-far-from-reality-as-possible scenarios designed to bring out their worst natures? Is there some greater influence at work stoking our interest in our pasts? When did genealogy become sexy?

Not that this is a bad thing. Not at all. In fact, such interest in real stories and real people can only result in good things. I mean, I would rather have my kids watch this show any day than Desperate Housewives or Jersey Shore. I’d rather have them watch this show than the news- at least this show can stoke their interest in the lessons of the past, instead of getting them swept up in the sensation of the week, day, or moment. 

Good for NBC for having the guts to produce this type of material. Hopefully, we will see more like it. Also on the docket of celebrities is Lisa Kudrow, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Matthew Broderick. I’ll tell you what I think after I watch the first episode.



Ancestry.com proves Obama and Buffett Cousins

When Warren Buffett was promoting Obama for the presidency, neither of them could have imagined that they were actually related.

That’s right. Reuters released a report today saying that Ancestry.com has found that President Obama and super-investor Warren Buffett are cousins… er, seventh cousins three times removed. Apparently, waaaaay back, their family trees meet at a 17th-century Frenchman named Mareen Duvall. The discovery was made by accident on Ancestry.com by researchers doing work on Obama’s roots. It is just another cool example of how Ancestry.com’s tools can help us learn unexpected things about our family histories.

Ironically, these same researchers found that Obama is also related to Dick Cheney. But something tells me they won’t be having a family reunion anytime soon.



Keep Your Mind on What Matters During the Holidays

With Black Friday looming last week, I spent a significant amount of time surfing through ads, trying to find the very best deals on the presents I would get for my kids and my lovely wife. This inevitably led to scheming about how I would outsmart or outmuscle the early morning crowds to secure the perfect gift. Along the way, I found myself catching glimpses of the things I wanted, too, and hoping that my wife would pick the right one. Before long, I couldn’t even focus on Thanksgiving. I had bigger fish to fry, bigger deals to reel in. Yeah, yeah, being grateful is good and all, but, if I planned things out well enough, I could come home Friday morning with a bounty of the best presents. I would be a hero come Christmas morning, I mused. 

I’ll admit it here and now: I got sucked into all the things about Christmas that don’t matter. And it was ruining my holidays.

Luckily, my wife brought me back down to earth after Thanksgiving dinner in her forthright way. The more I thought about it, the more I realized I was getting caught up in all of this so I could be the best gift-giver around. It had become a form of self-aggrandizement. Also, I was slipping in a few items that I really wanted- and maybe my kids would like them, too. Somehow, I had turned what was supposed to be an act of Christian love and appreciation into an act of selfishness. Funny how we do that sometimes.

So I rethought all my grand gift-giving plans. Like Scrooge and Charlie Bailey before me, I reconsidered what the true meaning of Christmas is. And I made a big attitude adjustment. I would not let the retailers dictate my holiday cheer. Rather, I would make my actions reflective of the Man we celebrate at Christmas. I thought about a neighbor of mine who has been unemployed for several months now and recently lost his car. I thought about others in similar situations. I thought about my wife and what would truly make her happy. And I resolved to do something- something real- to help these people and to somehow lift their burdens.

This is my new mission for the holidays. Anyone can buy a video game. But it takes real Christian love to give a real gift.