PBS picks up Irish ‘Genealogy Roadshow’ to Air in the Fall

Jane Kelly And Philip McGovern

Matchmaker Pat Quinn smooths way for Stuart Krasnow-Philip McGovern co-production

Irish reality show “Geneaology Roadshow” is hopping across the pond to PBS, which will air four episodes starting Sept. 23.

In the U.S. version of the show, which will take place in Austin, Texas; Nashville, Tenn.; Detroit; and San Francisco, Americans can trace their past based on things like a family story or heirloom.

Philip McGovern, above with wife and partner Jane Kelly, of Irish production company Big Mountain called the show “part detective story, part emotional journey, combining history and science to uncover fascinating stories of diverse Americans.”

As Kelly, who is Big Mountain’s creative director, put it: “ ‘Genealogy Roadshow’ is an original format where our expert team of genealogists investigate people’s stories and present their amazing results in front of a live roadshow audience.”

“This is about regular Americans who want to find out their past,” McGovern said. “We are tapping in to this trend where people like you and me try to find out their past.”

“Genealogy Roadshow” started off as a one-off documentary for BBC in Ireland about Ulster Scots and their connection to U.S. presidents. It did so well that Big Mountain expanded it to a format that Irish pubcaster RTE backed into the series. The show is now in it’s second season there. “We’ve always had an eye to internationalize this connection,” McGovern said.

The pair reached PBS in a circuitous route. The company worked with Krasnow Prods. on the U.S. adaptation and met producer Stuart Krasnow via Pat Quinn whose Quinn Media Management works on both sides of the Atlantic with the Resource Center, helping smooth the way to reach U.S. networks and studios.

“I target which companies would work,” said Quinn. “It was a meeting of the minds with Stuart Krasnow. We recut the sizzle reel, Philip did a lot of work, to see which would appeal to Americans.”

Beth Hoppe, PBS chief programming exec and g.m., general audience programming, says that when she first heard the pitch from Krasnow, “I thought the idea was perfect for PBS, such a great way to explore your roots. We have a history with finding your roots, with shows like ‘Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates.’ You don’t have to be famous to be remarkable.  I saw the Irish version, and thought it was terrific.”

Quinn said, “Ireland is small but has a long, long rich history. Here in L.A., everyone’s been in L.A. one generation. Nashville, Detroit, San Francisco, Austin will have diverse histories.”

While no host has yet been selected for the U.S. adaptation, PBS has found sites with rich local history to host each segment. None of the participants was willing to divulge budgets for the show, but Hoppe said, “it’s in the mid-range of what PBS normally does.”

“We are starting with four and if they are as successful as we hope they’ll be, we’ll get more,” she said.

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  1. Max Bancroft says:

    A couple of years ago a Genealogy Road Show was held in Ireland and their experts offered to do free look ups which was very much appreciated as it knocked down so many brick walls.
    The show was so successful, they said they might do it again some time later.
    When will this happen please?
    There are so many families in Australia with Irish roots we would also like to see the Roadshow on our TV, preferably on the ABC.

  2. Sandra Girard says:

    I have been hoping for this type of program When will we have a network that is dedicated to these stories as there are so many. I have been trying to find out info of my Irish grandmother who was put into Grafton State Hospital in MA. Can’t find info so these mysteries are still unfounded. Am so excited about progr

  3. I’d like to do this when it comes to Detroit. How do I apply?

  4. Mark says:

    Hi! Someone in my Myspace group shared this site with us so I came to give it a look. I’m definitely enjoying the information. I’m bookmarking and will be tweeting this to my followers! Outstanding blog and excellent design and style.

  5. Mary says:

    How do I get in contact with people of the show. I’d like to do this as a thank you to my Dad. He just got told that he has cancer that is not treatable. I’d like to trace his Irish roots back to the town in Ireland.

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