Thursday, March 29, 2012

"Who Do You Think You Are?": Helen Hunt

Some of my thoughts on last week's Helen Hunt-centric episode of WDYTYA:

  • Funny that just as I wrote a blog entry saying I wanted to see some Western genealogy, this episode did a little bit of tracing Helen's San Francisco-based family, who took advantage of the 1849 Gold Rush to expand their business.
  • I kinda dug that portion of the show because Helen's ancestor became a successful and wealthy businessman who ended up investing in a bank (the eventual Wells Fargo) that is still around today. I could totally identify with this, as my great-great grandfather Rudolph Stutzmann became a successful and wealthy businessman (as an undertaker) who ended up a founding member and first president of a bank (Ridgewood Savings Bank) that is still around today. Loved it.
  • I really wanted to see more emotion on Helen's part, at least for the first three-quarters of the episode. When she was talking to the woman who had written a book on her own San Francisco-based genealogy and it turned out that their ancestors had been friends and business partners, I just loved it, and yet Helen was all, "meh." She really didn't seem like she wanted to be there and she really, really didn't seem excited about anything she was finding out (except that her ancestors were rich, and that kind of bothered me, too). But I was getting more excited than her, and it wasn't even my family they were talking about!
  • I loved the last part of the episode, when Helen traveled to Maine to learn about her great-grandmother Augusta Hunt. That was where Helen seemed to finally emotionally connect to a specific person in her tree and to her ancestry in general. The irony of Helen's great-grandmother fighting alcohol abuse and her future daughter-in-law being killed by a drunk driver really seemed to resonate with her, as well as finding out her great-grandmother was instrumental in the fight for women's suffrage and that she lived to be able to register to vote and be the first woman to cast a ballot in Maine. That was really cool.
  • I loved that Helen was able to read the keynote speech her great-grandmother wrote and gave at one of the meetings. I've read newspaper articles where my great-great grandfather Rudolph has been quoted, and more than vital records and obits and census records, these things are an actual voice from the past - these are words your ancestor spoke, these are thoughts they actually had, reaching out over the years, the decades, the centuries, to us today, a tiny glimpse into their personality, their psyche, their lives. I just love that.
Overall, I would say that I really wanted to throttle Helen for the first part of this episode for not realizing how immensely cool this all is, but by the end of the episode, it was probably my favorite one so far this season...and of course, I was crying. Well played, show.

Next up this week (tomorrow): Rita Wilson explores her Bulgarian roots, answering another thing on my wishlist, seeing more Eastern European genealogy. 

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