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Family History Show: Who Do You Think You Are?

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There were a couple seasons of the American version on NBC until they dropped it. The TLC channel will premiere it on July 23 with Kelly Clarkson.

Eight of Hollywood's biggest celebs are delving into their family history to find out where they came from on TLC's Who Do You Think You Are?

Originally broadcast on NBC, Who Do You Think You Are? has been given new life by TLC with eight new episodes. Each hour, a different celebrity takes a globe-spanning journey to uncover mysteries about his or her ancestry.

Kicking off the series on July 23 is Kelly Clarkson, followed by Christina Applegate (July 30), Chelsea Handler (Aug. 6) and then Zooey Deschanel (Aug. 13). Additional participants include Chris O'Donnell, Jim Parsons, Cindy Crawford and Trisha Yearwood.

I have watched all of the episodes this season. The last one tomorrow is for Jim Parsons.

How is it that these supermodels are descended from royalty? Brooke Shields' a few years ago and now Cindy Crawford's boggled my mind.

A new website celebrates connections between Britons

TRACING family trees is a popular British pastime. Television programmes show celebrities rummaging through old census documents. Websites help amateur sleuths track down distant relatives. A new project launched on August 26th provides another twist to the obsession.

“Kindred Britain” is a website launched by Nicholas Jenkins, an English professor at Stanford University in California. The project grew out of Professor Jenkins’s research into both his own background and that of W.H. Auden, a 20th-century poet. The website now holds entries on nearly 30,000 Britons. Visitors to the website trace relations between different people using clear infographics and interactive tools. Admirals, bankers, poets, painters, lawyers and politicians are all in the mix. Unlike traditional family trees, these include bigamists, same-sex couples and illegitimate children.

The project is an intriguing example of the “digital humanities”. Scholars are starting to interact with coders and website designers to make their research more accessible and data publicly available.

Certain affinities appear in the data. Poets are often related to each other whereas novelists tend to be linked by marriage. T.S. Eliot, a 20th-century American-born poet, is a distant cousin of the British bards Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley (a link presumably unknown to Eliot). In contrast links between Jane Austen and Charles Dickens, perhaps the two most famous 19th-century novelists, are through several generations of marriages. As characters in novels are more meritocratic, so too are novelists.

Other connections are more unexpected. Gwyneth Paltrow (pictured), an American actress, is linked by marriage to A.C. Swinburne, a Victorian poet who dabbled in sadomasochistic verses. David Cameron, the prime minister, is distantly connected to Harold Pinter, a dramatist who once said that voting for Margaret Thatcher in 1979 was “the most shameful act of my life”. Kevin Bacon, a famously well-connected American actor, is related to the 16th-century philosopher Francis Bacon.

And yet despite its novelty, “Kindred Britain” touches on an older notion. Even within the sprawl of data, a handful of families are shown to have shaped British culture and history. The number of prime ministers related to each other may not be surprising. But the links between different walks of life are illuminating, for both literary critics and celebrity-spotters alike.

This was renewed by TLC. The site only shows one episode profiling Cynthia Nixon slated for July 23, 2014. TLC mentions 6 episodes this season.

Marathons of last season start Sunday afternoon and Wednesday afternoon before the season premiere that night.

The series on PBS Finding Your Roots started airing the current season in September. Ben Affleck's ancestry was covered on last week's episode.


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