Genealogy and Family Television

For as long as there has been television, we’ve had the pleasure of watching family sitcoms and dramas.

The television families in this blog will explore the differences in the various families such as the time periods they lived in, the areas they called home and situations they encountered as a family unit.

While genealogy isn’t a direct storyline in any of these series, it still plays an important part in telling the family stories. As we review the following series, we see the involvement of extended families; uncles, cousins, grandparents, and friends that are considered family. As these storylines progress and the children become adults, we also see the invisible family tree grow as we would in real life. These series tell stories about families with many underlying genealogy tones and provide a sense of what their family dynamic is like.

The Waltons

The Waltons is an American television series that ran from 1972-1981 and is based on the book Spencer’s Mountain that was written by Earl Hammer Jr.

The Walton family is settled in rural Virginia during the Great Depression and World War II, roughly 1933-1946. 

The main character is John Walton Jr. (known as John-Boy), his six siblings, his parents John and Olivia Walton, and the elder John’s parents; Zeb and Esther Walton. 

A simple family from a simpler time. It’s interesting to watch a family such as the Waltons live and thrive during this era. The show teaches togetherness and promotes moral and ethical well-being.

Little House on the Prairie

Little House on the Prairie is an American western drama television series about a family living on a farm in Walnut Grove, Minnesota, in the 1870s and 1880s.

This television show is an adaptation of the best-selling book series written by Laura Ingalls Wilder, one of the main characters. 

This show ran from 1974-1983. We watched the Ingalls girls grow up, marry and have families of their own while learning about what life was like for pioneers and settlers of the west. We watched them miss family back home and various other struggles we can relate to even in modern times.

This television series is a timeless classic for all ages. It still often runs on television or can be found on Netflix, Amazon or DVD.

The Wonder Years 

The Wonder Years is an American television series that ran from 1988 until 1993. The focus of this television show is an adolescent boy growing up in a suburban middle-class family from 1968–1973. This show highlights pure innocence of the family living in changing times in the United States.

With this series, we have the hard-working dad, the stay at home mom, and the older sister who gets caught up in the hippie movement along with the protests against the Vietnam War.

We watch the family go through what it was like to live during these turbulent years. We watch the boy fall in and out of love with the girl next door and the dramas that go along with being a teenager.

Full House 

Full House is an American television sitcom that chronicles the events of a widowed father, who needs help after his wife dies to raise his three girls. His brother brother-in-law and best friend take on the challenge that set for a loving and comical series.

The show ran from 1987-1995 and we watch three young girls from ages 2-11 grow into young adults. We watch the brother-in-law marry and have two kids of his own. While the best friend isn’t “family” by the standard definition, he is still treated like family and the girls even call him “Uncle Joey”. You don’t have to be blood to be related.

Throughout this television series, everyone lives in the same house. Hence “full house”. See what they did there?

It’s a fun loving show that shows a different family dynamic and real-life situations that people of any age can relate to. Full House is currently showing nightly on The Hallmark Channel. Be sure to check it out with your kids.

FUN FACT: Netflix has a reboot series called “Fuller House”. This rebooted series is most of the original cast living their lives in the same house and similar daily adventures but with kids of their own to join in the fun!

The Brady Bunch 

The Brady Bunch is a television sitcom that ran from 1969-1974 that brings together a single mom with three daughters and single dad with three sons. This is a typical combination of modern-day families blended together by the death or divorce of one of the parental units.

The storylines follow the two parents trying to manage this blended household without too much strife between the children. We see the children accept each other as new siblings and fight and argue as siblings do.

The Addams Family 

Ok, so this family is totally fictional but they are still a family.

They love and spend time with each other in ways others would find unconventional and weird but that’s okay. Don’t we all have weird relatives?

The Addams Family was introduced as a TV series in 1964. The Addams Family came to the silver screen in two movies released in 1991 and 1994.

Throughout the TV show and movies, there are a few scenes that involve the family cemetery. The family cemetery contains some interesting headstones of numerous Addams family ancestors. Just imagine if this was a real family and the stories these ancestors would tell. What would this family tree look like? What would research into their ancestors reveal?

What television shows can you think of that have families as the main subjects that teach us valuable life lessons? What’s the underlying genealogy theme in them?