This is a fascinating series on the genealogy of famous people. I love the way these stories unfold layer by layer to reveal the drama that is humanity from the great wars, massive migrations, and religious persecution to stories of everyday life. Birth, census, marriage, property, court and death records provide factual information of those that came before us and are woven with general historical information that is known about the time period to bring to life ancestors who were not previously known. These stories are often poignant and emotional as we come to know personal struggles. They educate us today of the way life used to be; where young children often died from diseases that today are easily prevented, where prejudice was accepted as the norm and a lack of social safety nets led to destitution. It reminds us how far we have come. How medical advances such as vaccinations and contraception have improved lives by saving children from horrible diseases and helping families plan the size of families in order to better support them. For all that is wrong with media today, it can put a spotlight on abuses and human suffering which lead to social change today. It brings to mind that great quotation attributed to George Santayana and repeated by Winston Churchill "Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it."
The BBC series is much better than the American version and it is telling that in the States it is referred to as a "reality show" where in the UK it is documentary. I rated the US version an 8 out of 10 for it's scripted feel and it's blatant commercial for Ancestry.com. I rate the UK version a 10 out of 10 for its more in depth analysis.