The second episode of Who Do You think You Are? this season featured Josh Groban.
Starting With The Family
This episode started with a visit with his parents and brother. In his monologue interview, he mentioned that both his parents were only children, so the family tree “just doesn’t come up in conversation”. Sorry Josh, I don’t think that’s how that works. Either someone in the family wants to talk about the family, or someone wants to hear about it. Otherwise, no one talks about their genealogy. Even so, he said his father’s side had a documented tree.
As he was leaving the house, they showed the laptop open on the table, but not what they were doing with it. I guess they saved their first Ancestry commercial for a little later in the episode.
Josh did leave the house carrying a notebook. I always like when we see the celebrity taking their own notes rather than just going where the episode takes them. I spotted that same notebook in several other scenes as well.
Check the Finished Tree First
Josh met with genealogist Kyle Betit at the LA Public Library. Kyle mentioned to Josh that he “used records like wills and deeds and newspapers” to construct the tree. Is this an attempt at WDYTYA to teach how they do the research? I don’t think it was successful.
Looking up his mother’s side of the family, her mother was Dorothy Blumberg. As a Jewish genealogist, obviously this branch sounded more my style. But alas, Dorothy was completely ignored in the episode. A little further back, the tree switched to the female line again, to Zimmerman, which can be Jewish but isn’t always. In this case, it was definitely not Jewish.
And once we get a few generations, the tree goes straight back on the Zimmerman line, showing only the male ancestors on that line. But there are so many more people involved to get to Josh from his 7xgreat-grandfather.
When Was He Born?
Showing the date of “before 1694” for his birth bothered me, especially with the source being a ship list. I haven’t worked in ship lists that far back. Did they not list ages? But then we saw that the source was a compiled book, not the ship list itself, and the children were not even listed individually. So, while they were only showing research up to a point, with the unknown birth date, they’d really already gone past that just to find a mention of his arrival where he’s not specifically mentioned.
They actually showed two different paragraphs from the book. Josh was reading from one, and they flashed to a completely different part in the middle of the scene.
Josh’s ability to pronounce the location names in German was also surprising.
Off To Germany
In Stuttgart at the Wurttemberg State Archive, Josh met archivist Prof. Dr. Peter Ruckert. Again, it’s kind of remarkable that Josh could read some of the old handwriting. I work with this stuff reasonably often and I have a hard time reading it. Were some of those names and dates pointed out to him or did he really find them on his own?
Back To School
At the University of Tubingen, he met head archivist Beate Martin. This was where Josh learned that his ancestor not only studied theology, but also taught music. No wonder the episode focused on this ancestor.
Soon, Josh learned his ancestor was writing books about astronomy.
Off to Bietigheim, Josh headed for the church where his ancestor was a deacon. Historian Dr. Jonathan Clark had a few more records. Josh was already anticipating that something had to happen to make him leave Germany, and the first document, a letter written by his ancestor, was the first clue.
With the book where he used a pen name, he seemed to believe that the church would fall. It seemed odd that he would want to keep his job with the church anyway. “He was crazy,” Josh determined.
Then The Church Archive
He met with historian Dr. Jan Stievermann at the Archive of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Josh’s first question was exactly what I was thinking — why would he want to stay with the church with what his beliefs had become?
Interestingly, the year he prophecized about the churches falling was the year he died. Maybe he was reading the stars wrong?
We saw some interesting documents in this episode. Normally, genealogy is done with censuses and vital records first, then we try to find more information in between those events. In this show, we saw a single marriage record, then many other types of documents including school records, letters, and books authored by the ancestor. I wish I had access to those kinds of records for my ancestors.
Except for the skipping of so many generations at the beginning, I liked that the story followed Josh’s ancestor who was a musician. I wonder how much time they spent on everyone else in the family in order to find that one musician in his ancestry.