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11 Must-See Genealogy TV Shows That Will Inspire You

By Sunny Jane Morton
Vintage TV in a library with the words "Genealogy TV" overlaid.

Whether you’re looking for something fast-paced and fun like “Relative Race,” or something that shocks and inspires like “Finding Your Roots,” there’s a genealogy TV show for you! Here are a few historical and/or genealogical programs to check out.

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1. A New Leaf

While some of the other popular programs in this list examine celebrity family trees, the Ancestry.com-sponsored program “A New Leaf” focuses on everyday people. The 13-episode series originally aired on NBC as part of the network’s Saturday morning block, “The More You Know.”

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2. Ancestors

This 23-episode series from BYUtv explores family history records from around the globe, weaving expert genealogy how-to with moving personal stories. You’ll learn about doing genealogy research and get inspired. Watch for free at BYUtv.

3. Ancestors in the Attic

Jeff Douglas hosts this irreverent, fast-paced series that takes Canadians on road trips and worldwide searches to track down their ancestors. Check WorldCat and your local library to find the show on DVD.

4. Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

In each episode of this series, historian Henry Louis Gates, Jr., explores the roots of two or three well-known Americans. History lessons are mixed in to show the context of ancestors’ lives. Guests also sometimes get DNA surprises. Season 8 will premiere on January 4, 2022 on PBS.

5. Genealogy Roadshow

This PBS series, hosted by a trio of genealogy experts, features an “Antiques Roadshow”-style setup. Experts answers family history questions of everyday Americans in quick segments, with polished visuals of old records, photos and family trees. Watch by subscription on the PBS website  or purchase episodes on YouTube.

6. The Genetic Detective

Genetic genealogy expert CeCe Moore stars in this ABC show. Moore was the genetic genealogy consultant on “Finding Your Roots” and “Genealogy Roadshow,” and she and her team have assisted law enforcement in solving dozens of cases using DNA. Her show follows her as she works with police departments to catch criminals using DNA and genealogy research. The show only ran for one season, but you can access episodes for free on ABC’s website.

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7. The Generations Project

Secrets come out in this BYUtv series. It follows everyday people as they research their ancestors to solve family mysteries—discovering keys to their own identities in the process. Watch for free on the BYUtv website.

8. Long Lost Family

This deeply emotional series on TLC, hosted by Chris Jacobs and Lisa Joyner, reunites separated families. In touching scenes, the searchers meet relatives they’ve been desperately seeking. Watch on TLC, online with a TLC subscription, or purchase episodes on YouTube.

9. Relative Race

Watch four teams compete “Amazing Race”-style, following clues and complete challenges as they race across the country to meet unknown relatives. (Producers discovered the relatives through DNA testing.) Watch free on the BYUtv website or look here for cable/satellite services and TV streaming apps that offer it.

10. Roots Less Traveled

Ancestry.com debuted this series on April 4, 2020. The show, designed for teenagers, follows pairs of family members as they travel together and discover their shared family history. Like “A New Leaf” before it (see above), “Roots Less Traveled” airs during NBC’s Saturday morning “The More You Know” block. You can watch episodes on NBC.com.

11. Who Do You Think You Are?

In each episode, accompany a celebrity on a journey to archives and ancestral hometowns. The American version of “Who Do You Think You Are?” is modeled after the British show of the same name. While this show has aired on TLC since 2013, season 11 will return to NBC on a to-be-announced date.

Last updated: December 2021

Related Reads

Our Interview with Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
We interviewed Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr. on his genealogical journey as well as his successful genealogical TV show, “Finding your Roots.”
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