arts & entertainment
New PBS series uses history and science
to uncover fascinating family histories.
tuart Krasnow, until very recent-
ly, believed that surnames of
41 111. many 20th-century immigrants
had been changed at Ellis Island, where
clerks arbitrarily would have decided on
more generic or Americanized versions.
Enlightenment came through Genealogy
Roadshow, a new TV series he's executive-
producing for PBS that runs 9-10 p.m. on
four consecutive Mondays, Sept. 23-Oct.
14. Important to that enlightenment are
experiences in Detroit, one of four cit-
ies — along with Austin, Texas, Nashville,
Tenn., and San Francisco — that were
chosen as American crossroads of culture,
diversity, industry and history, all with
deep pools of potential participants want-
ing to explore unverified genealogical
claims passed down through family lore.
In Detroit, William Blackman, with
Jewish heritage, wanted to know about his
family history and the implications of any
name change. The concern was that ances-
tral links might have been lost.
"Being Jewish myself, I was really sur-
prised seeing the story play out:' says
Krasnow during a phone conversation from
his office in California. "The background
search was an interesting way to show how
so many immigrants wanted to fit in."
After participants are chosen for the
show, experts in genealogy, history and
DNA use heirlooms, letters, pictures,
historical documents and other pieces of
information to fill out personal histories.
The experts also enlist the help of local
historians to add context to the investi-
gations so that every artifact and name
Executive producer Stuart Krasnow with Denise Garza Steusloff, a Mexican
American who suspected she had Jewish heritage.
serves as a clue in solving mysteries posed
by people being profiled.
"This show is a little bit like American
Idol, a little bit like a game show, a little
bit like a reality show and a little bit like
a news show:' says Krasnow, 52, whose
first visit to Detroit revolved around his
new series. "If someone has an interesting
claim about family, we investigate it and
pay it off. Instead of winning cars, people
are winning pieces of themselves:'
Looking back on his own history,
Krasnow remembers entering Washington
University in St. Louis with only one goal:
finding a career that would offer daily
"In my first month of college, I got chosen
to do a TV editorial, and I decided to ques-
tion why we couldn't drink at age 18 but we
could be drafted at that age Krasnow says.
"Once I experienced the broadcast envi-
ronment, it was in my blood. To this day,
Genealogist For Hire
ears before Genealogy
Roadshow was being developed,
Corey Samuels Rosen was
developing interest in his own family tree.
After noticing an old and treasured picture
in his home, Rosen of Franklin wondered
about the people who
To find out about
them, Rosen began
members he knew well
and emailing distant
family members unfa-
lo II Ill Ill
miliar to him.
After more than
when I hear a countdown [to filming], I
have the same feelings I had when I was
18 years old:'
Krasnow studied English and started at
CNN in New York soon after graduation.
He quickly was elevated to a managerial
position and went on to work for CBS
News, Dateline NBC, the Ricki Lake Show
and Weakest Link.
"For me, there has to be one consistent
thing in programs:' he says. "They have
to tell real people stories. While I love
to write, I've always enjoyed unscripted
television. We show up with a plan, but we
never know what's going to happen"
A recent Krasnow show, Selling Spelling
Manor, has been seen on HGTV. The two-
part production follows Candy Spelling,
widow of famed producer Aaron Spelling,
downsizing from her 56,500-square-foot
mansion to a 17,000-square-foot condo.
Krasnow grew up in New York and
is single. At his home in L.A., he enjoys
hosting family members and hiking with
his dog. He is active with the Wilshire
Boulevard Temple, voicing deep respect
for the outlook of Rabbi Steven Leder.
"I think whoever a person is has to
come out in the work that person does
in entertainment:' Krasnow says. "I did a
segment on Jewish mothers for CNN and a
segment on a former skinhead for the Joan
Through Genealogical Roadshow, view-
ers will learn about Denise Garza Steusloff,
a Mexican American who felt she was
connected to survivors of the Spanish
Inquisition and wanted to confirm that she
"We want to celebrate all cultures with
this show, but it's especially interesting
talking about something that's close to my
heart because of the way I was raised:' says
"When I do a show, I want it to be
something that I would watch. I want it to
hold my attention and make me feel that
I'm getting something out of it.
"In the Facebook generation, people
have become very good at cataloging
their lives and recording their parents,
grandparents, children and grandchil-
dren. There's sort of a blank space beyond
grandparents, and I feel this show makes
those connections through this country,
other cultures and the ways people became
who they are:'
Genealogy Roadshow runs 9 p.m.
Mondays, Sept. 23-Oct. 14, on
Detroit Public Television-Channel 56
and other PBS stations.
Helping clients to discover their roots.
five years of inquiry, Rosen has mapped
out a tree with more than 2,700 people.
The 21-year-old junior at Michigan State
University has been surprised by the
"I wanted to know about the deci-
sions of my ancestors and how those
affected the people who came along after
thern:' explains Rosen, a religious studies
major who grew up in Farmington Hills
attending the Frankel Jewish Academy
of Metropolitan Detroit and B'nai Israel
Synagogue in West Bloomfield.
"In some ways, I've come to think of
this project as a memorial to victims of
the Holocaust, and I really want to honor
them. On a less serious note, I've been
able to verify family stories that have
been passed along:'
With the attention given to this project
by his extended family, Rosen decided
this summer to establish a business to
map family trees for others.
He calls his business Family Jews. The
work will continue during his studies at
Michigan State. Rosen spent a year in
Israel, studying at the Hebrew University
and working on a kibbutz while gaining
language skills that also assist him with
"I've come to know the websites and
search tools that help with the tracking:'
says Rosen, the son of teacher Robin
Rosen and dentist Roy Rosen. "I recently
attended a conference planned by the
International Association of Jewish
Genealogists, and that was very helpful.
"I've been working on the ancestry of
a friend, and my first actual client is the
wife of a distant cousin. I want to help
other families make important, meaning-
ful discoveries in the way I have made
discoveries about my heritage:'
- Suzanne Chessler
Contact Corey Samuels Rosen at
(248) 225-9702 or www.familyjews.
September 19 • 2013