Series on Family History Produced by KBYU
January 1997

“Series on Family History Produced by KBYU,” Ensign, Jan. 1997, 75

Series on Family History Produced by KBYU

The first U.S. national television series dedicated to family history will be available for broadcast on PBS television stations beginning in January. Ancestors, a 10-part documentary/how-to series, was produced by KBYU Television with support from Brigham Young University and several large corporate donations.

“The series is intended to be motivational,” explained Diena Simmons, director of program services for KBYU. “Each of the ten half-hour episodes explores the why and how-to of family history research through personal stories and expert instruction from some of the most respected professional genealogists in the country.”

Ancestors teaches how to get started in the research process, interview living relatives, and learn about the basic records and new technology available. Other topics include medical research and genetic issues, African American research, and census and military records. The first half of each episode is a feature story illustrating how family history has changed lives; the last half of each program has the program’s hosts, Jim and Terry Willard, talking with noted family history experts.

“Doing family history is part of our theology as Latter-day Saints,” said Sterling VanWagenen, the program’s executive producer. “But we were convinced there is tremendous value for anyone in doing family history, not just for Church members. We really wanted to accomplish two things through the series. First, we wanted others to understand the intrinsic value for families of doing family history. It brings families together when they find out who their ancestors are; it can create healing across generations.

“And second, we wanted to do a series that convinced people that family history could be simple and enjoyable. It doesn’t have to be as complicated or intimidating as it sometimes seems to be.”

The last 10 years have been spent solidifying the concept, writing the scripts, and gathering funding for the project. PBS stations throughout the United States now have access to the series and can schedule it for broadcast. In addition to the 10 episodes, a companion book is available through local public television stations airing Ancestors, or anyone can get a copy on the Internet at <http://www.kbyu.byu.edu/ancestors.html>.

Hosts Jim and Terry Willard are amateur genealogists and former high school teachers. (Photo courtesy of KBYU.)