PHILIP NOLAN MY VIEW
We all like to know where we come from, mostly in the hope of a windfall from a long forgotten great-uncle
We all like to know where we’ve come from, but why? It would be nice to think that the motivation simply was to find a heroic ancestor who rescued people from slavery, or discovered the source of the Ganges, or even was spotted in shot dancing behind Fred Astaire in Flying Down To Rio.
In truth, RTÉ’s Dead Money, in which forensic genealogists Steven and Kit Smyrl attempted to find the beneficiaries of estates left by those who died without close relatives, suggested we saw our family trees as possible money trees from which Lotto- style windfalls could be shaken. Personally, I dream of hearing news of a long forgotten great-uncle called Mike R O’Soft, who surely must have lent his name to a company somewhere.
Equally, in Who Do You Think You Are? there’s something comforting about watching a huge star humbled by the poverty, pestilence or pogroms his or her family faced. A dose of humility never does anyone any harm.
The most human of all these shows, though, is The Genealogy Roadshow, returning to RTÉ tonight at 7pm. Presented by Derek Mooney, the opener sees the team unearth the stories of a Wexford man who survived Custer’s Last Stand, and also tells the story of the Dresden Affair, when hundreds of poor emigrants died during the passage to Argentina on a ship called the City of Dresden.
The series highlight, however, promises to be the upcoming story of a Longford woman who became a notorious criminal in the United States in the Prohibition era.
Mind you, given that the show occupies the slot vacated by The Voice Of Ireland, maybe RTÉ could turn its attention to previous Voice winners for a new show. They could call it Where Do You Think They Are Now?