Q&A With The Generations Project

by Julie Hill

Posted on January 5, 2010

Did you catch the first episode of The Generations Project, a new reality show, on BYUTV last night Jan. 4? If not its worth a look. We had the opportunity to interview Mary Wollenzien, a member of the Generations Project team, and we're passing along the story to you! 

Mary gives us a couple sneak peeks into highlights from the show, as well as helpful pointers for our own research. Check out our brief Q&A below, and tell us what you think of this interesting project in your comments. You can watch a preview of the show here.

- What is your role at the Generations Project/ BYU Broadcasting?

I am an associate producer. I also am working on promoting the show through social media.

- What is the mission of your project? How can this help beginning family historians?

The show aims to build interest and excitement about family history. It addresses questions about identity, place, time, and historical context. This show hopes to inspire the average person to learn more about their ancestors.

- How did the idea for the show come about?

BYU Broadcasting is dedicated to making quality television programing that enriches the lives of its viewers. As part of that commitment we wanted to create a program that would reach out to everyday people and show them that learning about your family is not only cool, but that it can change your life.

- Tell us about the most interesting case you've solved thus far:

It's hard to say what our most interesting case has been this season, there have been so many. One of my favorites is Gloria's story.  Her whole life she's been told her grandfather was no more than a drunk who was beaten to death in a hotel room. Having come from difficult circumstances herself, Gloria is searching for a piece of history in her family story she can be proud of. Being a devout Christian, Gloria believes there is good in everyone. So she embarks on a journey to find one good apple in her shady family tree. Gloria's episode will air March 8th.
- Any other interesting stories or applicants you can tell us about?

One of our most unique stories deals with separation due to disease. Leprosy, one of the world's oldest and most stigmatic conditions, separates a Hawaiian mother from her children and relatives. Forced to live in isolation on the island of Molokai, she was unable to remain with her family and see her children grow up. Now her great-grand daughter Maile Mossman looks to uncover the true nature of her great-grandmother's condition. She also hopes to learn more about the character of the man who stood by her, namely John K. Waiamau. Maile's episode airs January 25th.

- Give a couple of the best sources that you or others can use to help trace family history. Any other "insider" tips?

One of the best places to start is with your own family members. It's always surprising to see how different family members remember different information. Start by asking questions that will help you sketch your basic family tree including vital info like birth, marriage, and death dates as well as places.

However, don't forget to ask other meaningful questions about their lives such as what was their occupation, what was their education like, where did they live and why, who did they love, what was their character like, and are there any memories that family members can share. These conversations usually lead to a wealth of priceless information. Keep notes or you will forget.

Ask if anyone has pictures, journals, or other heirlooms of importance. Once you have some basic info you can dig into the research. Helpful resources can be found at Familysearch.org, local historical societies, newspapers, and university libraries. There are also innumerable sources online where you can learn about the historical context and background of the places your ancestors lived and worked. Never underestimate the power of Google.

- Do you have any genealogy resolutions for 2010?

Continue The Generations Project and build more awareness about our show and its mission to connect families across generations.

- How can people apply to have you help them trace their family history?

Anyone can apply to be on our show. Apply online at http://www.byub.org/thegenerationsproject. We also recommend making short 2 to 3 min audition video and posting it online via YouTube or Vimeo then sharing the link with us on your application. An example of an audition video can be seen here.

- Where/ when can people watch your show?

The show airs every Monday night at 8 PM (Mountain Time) on BYU Television. It can also be watched online. Reruns of the show will be played at 6:00pm on Mondays. Also, you can follow the show on Facebook and Twitter.

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