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How To Plan A WDYTYA Viewing Party

Who Do You Think You Are? viewing party

So now that you are all psyched about the upcoming television series Who Do You Think You Are? starting here in the United States on March 5, 2010 on the NBC network, are you also planning a viewing party?

Really? A Viewing Party?

Don’t laugh – I can just hear it now: “My friends already think I am weird for hanging around so many dead people.  Why would they want to come over and watch a television show about it?”

Well, as I’ve been saying for the past few months, WDYTYA as well as Faces of America – the Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. series on PBS beginning February 10, 2010 – present an opportunity to bring in new family history enthusiasts and get them excited about genealogy.  The last time there was such an opportunity was over a generation ago – in 1977 – with the broadcast of the television mini-series Roots.  And back then, viewers didn’t have a desktop computer, laptop or mobile device to use to find their own ancestors.

Here are some ideas on how to hold a viewing party for either television show:

The Invitations

  • Anything with a leaf or a tree motif is obvious.
  • How about a graphic with a family tree chart, the invitee’s name and then question marks for his or her ancestors?

The Decor

  • This time of year, in most locations it is easy to find a dead tree branch.  Spray paint it gold, anchor it in a clay flower pot with sand and use it for a centerpiece.
  • Carry the tree and leaf theme over to the tablecloth and napkins.
  • If you need name tags, consider creating them in a leaf shape and them tie them to the tree centerpiece.  When guests arrive, have them locate their name tag and ask them to wear it.
  • If you have a family tree chart or other items created from your research, put them out for display.  Let your guests see what the possibilities are when it comes to genealogy.

The Food

  • Twigs and leaves are not suitable food for a party.  Even if everyone is on a diet.  Sorry.
  • However if you wanted to make cookies using a leaf or a tree shape that would work.  Or spiff up a simple dessert with hand-made chocolate leaves.
  • One way to ease the burden of cooking is to have a pot-luck where party attendees bring a dish.  Asking people to bring a favorite family dish that is part of their heritage would get people excited to share their own family history.

The Favors

  • Your guests might want a “take away” (something they can take home with them) so they can get started on their own journey of discovering their roots.
  • Print up a colorful sheet listing the major online genealogy research sites and their trial offers such as‘s 14-day Free Trial.
  • If you have old genealogy software or resources you aren’t using, consider making it available as a door prize or a give-away.

The Activities

  • Watching the show is the obvious activity for such a party!
  • Lead a discussion by asking your guests what they know so far about their family history.
  • Ask each person if there is a family mystery they would like to solve, possibly through genealogy research.
  • Make your laptop, netbook or desktop computer available for folks to use to do some research.  How do a quick demo on how easy it is to get started on or any of the other sites.
  • If children will be present, consider an activity involving their family history to keep them busy.  Check out the neat portable family tree magnetic game made by fellow genealogy blogger Michelina Hall as one example.  And Missey Corley at Bayside Blog has lots of neat ideas as well!


So what are your ideas for a viewing party?  Share them in the comments below.

© 2010, copyright Thomas MacEntee

15 thoughts on “How To Plan A WDYTYA Viewing Party

  1. Oh I absolutely LOVE this idea!!! I already know who to invite, and what I’ll serve! [Fruit cups since I am on a restricted diet – with bittersweet chocolate leaves!]

    If there are children present, you can get some absolutely adorable blank family trees to help them fill in for free at:

    There are also some really nice ones for adults as well. The free downloads can’t be filled in using the computer, but if you’re willing to pay a couple dollars, you can get the fill-in kind for the the computer. [I have several that I use for clients. They’re great!] The free ones have to be filled in by hand, and the kids get such a kick out of doing this, so not a big deal!

    Thanks for the party idea! Can’t wait!!!

  2. Love it!
    I have leaf cookie cutters that’ll be great. Maybe I’ll add my son’s favorite… it’s from Halloween but I could make it work. Mud (chocolate pudding sprinkled with crushed cookies) with cookie tombstones…. well maybe that’s a little too…off?

  3. Question, if there are viewing parties. then there are less tv’s tuned in, won’t this hurt us instead. If less people are watching then they will not want to keep it on. Not sure about how all that works, just a thought.

    Otherwise, where’s the party? lol!

  4. I saw this in a parenting magazine:

    You get little clay pots (the kind you might use for seedlings). Drop a small Dixie up in each one (make sure the pot is just slightly bigger than the Dixie cup, so that it doesn’t show).

    Fill the Dixie cup with hummus (or ranch dip, if you don’t like hummus). That’s the “soil.” Then stick a few baby carrots in it…those are the trunks. Put a small hole in the top end of each carrot and put a sprig of parsley in it…that’s the “tree top.” Voila…cute little “family tree” appetizers!

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