It’s time for another season of Who Do You Think You Are? and this time, the season didn’t begin during an IAJGS conference, which means, I have a chance to keep up.
The season began with Julie Chen.
They Always Start with Ancestry
Instead of visiting and talking with family on screen, her mother and sister put the family tree on Ancestry and Julie visited that. She focused on her grandfather, Lou Gaw Tong, and noticed that he had six wives, with one completely unknown. That part of his history was never revisited in the rest of the episode. It makes me wonder why they focused on it at the beginning.
Was this their way of saying that you don’t always find the specific family history answers you’re looking for without actually saying that, but just forgetting about it?
Off to Asia
With both of her parents US immigrants, Julie immediately headed to Singapore, where her grandfather died. Meeting the first historian, she walked in completely empty-handed. I was starting to like watching the celebrities carrying around their notebooks.
Upon finding the Chinese language obituary, Julie quickly admitted that she can’t read and write Chinese, but earlier said that Mandarin was her first language. So she learned to speak but not read or write? They didn’t say. She had a translator throughout the episode, but she did speak in Chinese sometimes. Maybe she was just out of practice?
Julie became fixated on the “improper childhood” mentioned in the obituary for her grandfather and asked everyone else about it in the episode. Maybe it was at this time that she forgot about the six wives that interested her before.
Her next documents presented a bit of history that World War II began in China in 1937 after the Japanese invaded. At this point, they did their only history lesson sidebar for the whole episode. I think this episode could have used more. I can’t be the only person who knows nothing about Chinese history or culture.
To The Ancestral Home, in China
Julie was able to visit the Anshan School, which her grandfather and his brother were the founders of in 1937. She then met her cousin, who lived in the same house that her grandfather had.
After the commercial break, the camera panned back to Julie’s cousin, who was subtitled as a “distant cousin”. I didn’t realize a first cousin once removed was considered distant. I don’t consider my second cousins to be very distant, but I am a genealogist.
At the Anxi County Records Office, Julie got to see the Anxi Gazetteer. At the school, she read from the Anxi County Gazetteer. Were those different books? They had different information.
Visiting the Gravesite
I think this episode had the most unusual gravesite visit, which required a hike to a solitary grave. Again, there were Chinese rituals involved that I didn’t feel like they explained. Also, they hiked with more of her relatives but they showed no interaction between them and her. Is that a Chinese cultural thing or did they just not show it?
I felt like they should have explained the location better, or at least sooner. Luckily Julie asked and we learned something about why it was there. Also, how is anyone supposed to know who’s buried somewhere if they put a different name on the stone? How often does a group of people hike up to the site and follow those rituals? Did they pick up all those little pieces of paper from the ground before leaving?
This episode was the most foreign to me of the series. I could have gone for more of those history lessons since it only had one. I’d also like more of the cultural stuff to be explained, but they skipped over that too.
It seemed to me like Julie had no interest in meeting her cousins, since she did meet a few. I hope that it just didn’t make it into the episode. How can someone not be excited to meet a cousin they never knew existed? I’ve met plenty and, as a matter of fact, I’m going to meet some new ones this week.