Tuesday, January 24, 2012

WDYTYA Cast Is Revealed by NBC; Series Kicks Off on Feb 3

I'm looking forward to Season Three of Who Do You Think You Are, the genealogically oriented reality show broadcast on NBC. 

I missed the announcement of the "cast" which was revealed back on January 6. If you didn't see the news release on another blog, I'm reproducing it below. You also might want to check out the WDYTYA website at http://www.nbc.com/who-do-you-think-you-are/.


Martin Sheen, Marisa Tomei, Blair Underwood, Reba McEntire, Rob Lowe, Helen Hunt, Rita Wilson, Edie Falco, Rashida Jones, Jerome Bettis, Jason Sudeikis and Paula Deen Take a Look Inside Their Family Histories on NBC's Genealogy Alternative Series Produced by Lisa Kudrow
UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif.-- January 6, 2012-- Viewers can take an up-close and personal look inside the family history of some of today's most beloved and iconic celebrities when NBC's "Who Do You Think You Are?" returns for its third season on Friday, February 3 (8-9 p.m. ET). The celebrities who star in the series are Martin Sheen, Marisa Tomei, Blair Underwood, Reba McEntire, Rob Lowe, Helen Hunt, Rita Wilson, Edie Falco, Rashida Jones, Jerome Bettis, Jason Sudeikis and Paula Deen.

From executive producers Lisa Kudrow ("Friends," "Web Therapy") and Dan Bucatinsky ("Lipstick Jungle," "The Comeback") - through their production company Is or Isn't Entertainment and Shed Media U.S. ("Supernanny," "The Real Housewives of New York City") -- "Who Do You Think You Are?" is an adaptation of the award-winning hit British television documentary series that leads celebrities on a journey of self-discovery as they unearth their family trees that reveal surprising, inspiring and even tragic stories that often are linked to crucial events in American history.

"We're very excited about the stories we have this season. This fantastic group of people we have will take us to countries we haven't visited before which is thrilling and gives us glimpses into crucial details of history that not only shaped their families, but our world," said executive producers Kudrow and Bucatinsky. "This is what we love about this series; it's so enriching for us the viewer, as well as the participants and their families."

From Ireland's freedom fighters to the American Revolutionary War, and from the African nation of Cameroon to Bulgaria, "Who Do You Think You Are?" will reveal the fabric of humanity through everyone's place in history. Each week a different celebrity takes a journey into their family's past, traveling all over the world. While giving viewers an in-depth look into their favorite stars' family tree, each episode will expose surprising facts and life changing encounters that will unlock people's emotions, and show just how connected everyone is not only to the past, but to one another. 

Ancestry.com continues in its role as NBC and Shed Media's official partner on the series, helping to provide the exhaustive research used to build each story. "'Who Do You Think You Are?' is such a beautiful showcase for the type of discoveries people can make through family history research," said Josh Hanna, Executive Vice President for Ancestry.com. "We are extremely proud to help produce a program that inspires so many to begin their own journey of discovery and are excited to see it grow more this season."

"Who Do You Think You Are?" is produced by Shed Media U.S. in association with Is or Isn't Entertainment. Alex Graham, Kudrow, Bucatinsky, Jennifer O'Connell and Al Edgington are the executive producers. The unique, award-winning series is based on the popular BBC television documentary series from Wall to Wall Productions, created and executive-produced by Graham.

Shed Media U.S. is noted for its strong characters and memorable casting, and produces several popular television shows including: Bravo's "The Real Housewives of New York City," "Bethenny Ever After" and "It's A Brad, Brad World," Lifetime's "Supernanny," VH1's "Basketball Wives" and TLC's "All American Muslim." Is or Isn't Entertainment has been developing and producing television, features and online content since Kudrow and Bucatinsky formed their partnership in 2003. It is best known for the critically acclaimed, Emmy Award-nominated series "The Comeback," which made its own comeback on The Sundance Channel in 2011. The company's critically lauded web-series "Web Therapy," won the 2010 and 2011 Webby Awards for Best Online Comedy and was just nominated for a 2012 PGA Award. 

The series made a ground-breaking web-to-TV move on Showtime this summer with 10 critically acclaimed half-hours triggering a season two pickup for Summer 2012 with an unprecedented line-up of guest stars including Meryl Streep.

Ancestry.com Inc. (Nasdaq: ACOM) is the world's largest online family history resource, with approximately 1.7 million paying subscribers. More than 7 billion records have been added to the site in the past 15 years. Ancestry users have created more than 29 million family trees containing over 3 billion profiles. In addition to its flagship site www.ancestry.com, Ancestry.com offers localized Web sites designed for nine countries that empower people to discover, preserve and share their family history.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Senator Brown Responds to Concern about SSDI Restrictions

In mid-December, I sent an email to my Senator, Sherrod Brown, expressing concern about his move to limit access to the Social Security Death Index. Yesterday, I received a reply from Sen. Brown explaining his beliefs on this matter. First some background:

Brown and three other senators contacted Ancestry.com and other providers of the SSDI to genealogists and requested that they stop providing access to social security records of deceased persons. What prompted them to do this was a case in which unscrupulous individuals requested and received a refund of the Internal Revenue Service for the a child that was deceased. Supposely, they were able to do this because the child's social security number was available in the SSDI. The case gained public attention when the parents filed a legitimate return and were turned down.

You can read my post on this issue at my other blog, NEOhio Genealogy Blog by clicking here.

I'd suggest you read two other reports that discuss the issue: Kimberly Powell at About Genealogy (click here) and Megan Smolenyak on her Roots World blog (click here).
Ancestry.com did take action and redacted social security numbers going back 10 years. We still have access to earlier social security numbers to aid in requesting social security applications for our ancestors. I have confirmed this by searching for records of family members who passed away last year and just more than a decade ago.

I believe that other measures could have been taken rather than even removing SS numbers from more recent deceased persons SSDI entries. For example, the IRS could make computer runs against the SSDI to assure that no fraudulent tax returns were filed against account numbers of deceased persons. That is the purpose, after all, of compiling the SSCI.

In any case, because Sen. Brown was thoughtful enough to respond to my email, I am providing his response in its entirety here:
Dear Mr. Huskonen:

Thank you for getting in touch with me regarding the posting of Social Security numbers of deceased individuals.

Social Security numbers of deceased individuals are available for public purchase through the Death Master File (DMF). Due to the fact that an individual’s right to privacy is extinguished upon death, websites such as Ancestry.com are able post the Social Security numbers of deceased individuals.

Unfortunately, posting such personal information can provide unscrupulous individuals with the tools needed to commit consumer fraud, including tax and credit card fraud. No family should ever have to discover that a loved-one’s personal information has been stolen and used for ill-intentioned purposes. This is why I wrote to the Ancestry.com and several other genealogy websites urging them to remove Social Security numbers from their websites. I am pleased that Ancestry.com has agreed to this request.
I have heard from a number of genealogists and historians who are concerned that the removal of Social Security numbers from genealogy websites will hinder their ability to trace family ancestry. While I understand Social Security numbers are be a valuable tool for tracking a family’s history, I believe the unintended consequences of this practice outweigh the benefits.

I appreciate you sharing your views on this issue with me. Thank you again for writing.

Sherrod Brown
United States Senator

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

WRHS's Research Center was Busy on Martin Luther King Day

This past Monday, I volunteered in the Research Center at Western Reserve Historical Society. The special occasion: a free research day in honor of Martin Luther King Day. Normally, the Research Center is closed on Mondays.

Attendance was very good, with all 15 computer work stations being used at one point during the afternoon. Several representatives of the African American Genealogical Society were on hand to volunteer as well, and they handled the questions about African American research, which is not one of my strong suits.

For the most part, I was able to assist the patrons I did work with in finding information about ancestors. One researcher wanted to find the naturalization papers for her grandfather, and a passenger list record, as well. Unfortunately, we struck out on this research. He didn't even indicate his citizenship status on the 1920 and 1930 censuses, a source of clues to at least when a naturalization took place. We checked both the federal court records (on Ancestry and Fold3) and the Cuyahoga County Naturalization Index. Nada.

In another case, a young lady want to find out something about her uncle, Nick, who died a few years ago in California. I thought this would be an easy one, because California death records are available on Ancestry. She searched for Nicholas and came up dry. After fiddling with the search terms, she found a record for somebody in Desert Palms, California, which she determined was her uncle. What she learned, along with the death date, was that his name was really Nathan, and Nick was an assumed nickname, not short for Nicholas.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Free Research Day at Western Reserve Historical Society

Attention All Western Reserve Researchers!

I’m volunteering tomorrow at the Western Reserve Historical Society Research Center (the Library and Genealogy Center renamed) when there will be free admission from 10 am to 5 pm. (All-day parking only $5.)

The occasion is Martin Luther King Day, but anyone is welcome to come on down.

In preparation, you might want to access the Society’s revamped website, go to Research and Collections, then click on Family History, and finally on Databases. NEW: A number of funeral home databases are now available for searching online. Also the largest online database of Cuyahoga County Cemetery Inscriptions. When you find records of interest, print out and bring along the particulars so you can look at the actual records during your visit to the Library, oops Research Center.

I know I am going to look up some records in between assisting Research Center visitors.

By the way, the History Center (Museum) will be open for free as well! Check out all that’s new at WRHS at www.wrhs.org.

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