Irish Roots


March 26th 2012

- now also available as an Irish Times blog.

John Grenham

Having seen two more episodes of RTE's "Dead Money", I have to modify last week's comments. It's clear that the programme is not just good, it's superb, an object lesson in how to captivate an audience with a single story. The two researchers, Steve and Kit, are television naturals who come across as relaxed, compassionate and funny. (And also wear entertainingly matching shoes.) Steve is an outstanding researcher. If I'd lost some ancestors, he's the one I'd want looking for them. The single story in each episode is nicely self-contained and always embodies some wonderful complexity: how, after 150 years, there are only two descendants from a family of thirteen; how easily families can split and scatter over three continents; how the hurt of an abandoned child can endure through world wars and successful careers and happy marriages.

A little of the asperity of last week's column was actually displaced irritation at the main competitor, the English 'Heir Hunters", running intermittently on BBC2. Though the premise is identical, "Heir Hunters" revolves around the money, reflecting the different natures of the companies involved. Whereas Steve and Kit work as professionals for lawyers, on an hourly rate, Fraser and Fraser, the English company, get nothing if they don't find a beneficiary. And "Heir Hunters" seems to have been made for the Attention Deficit Discovery Channel, with ad breaks every five minutes and a complete recap of the story every six minutes.

'Dead Money' may be in a different league, but its glossing over awkward details can still jar. Steve really should tell his brother that Irish General Register Office Indexes are online, for instance. And there are occasional odd leaps of logic or sudden omissions. If some people didn't want their stories told, it would be interesting to hear why.

Perhaps some of my sharpness last week may have been because Steve and Kit are now genealogists-on-the-telly, and I'm not. Perish the thought. Isn't "The Genealogy Roadshow" repeating on RTE1 at 4.45pm from Tuesday to Friday this week?


Comments and suggestions are welcome, to irishrootsatirishtimes.com.

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