Behind the Scenes of the "Who Do You Think You Are?" Filming

Written by: Lynn Young, President General
April 21, 2015

I hope you enjoyed the “Who Do You Think You Are?” episode on Sunday night that featured Bill Paxton using DAR resources to learn more about his ancestor. Clips from the episode are available on the TLC website here.

I was so proud of how beautiful our Headquarters looked and how well our organization was portrayed. We have seen our Headquarters buildings on television and in movies before, but usually substituting as the White House or other iconic D.C. locations in fictional storylines. It was such an honor to see the DAR Headquarters showcased on national television as itself and to highlight the services we provide to the public.

DAR was first mentioned in the episode when they were using the GRS to find Bill Paxton's ancestor. After they located the ancestor in the GRS they made their way to Washington, D.C., to our National Headquarters. Scenes at our Headquarters showcased the DAR Library in particular, and Bill Paxton’s interview portions were filmed in the Pennsylvania Foyer.

 “Who Do You Think You Are?” has provided positive national exposure for our organization. The traffic to our GRS site more than quadrupled on Sunday! Additionally, double the normal number of Record Copies and Supporting Documents were ordered Sunday evening.This shows the increased interest in our genealogical resources!

In 2012, when “Who Do You Think You Are?” filmed at DAR Headquarters with Rob Lowe our websites briefly crashed because of the increased exporsure for DAR. While traffic to our website on Sunday night was significantly higher than usual, we didn't face any technical setbacks because of the fiber optic cable and expanded Internet bandwidth which was installed as part of the President General’s Project last year.

We couldn’t share too much information with you prior to the air date in order to preserve the storyline of the episode. But I’m pleased to tell you more about the DAR involvement today and to share some behind the scenes photos from the filming at DAR Headquarters.

View photos from the filming here.


Bill Paxton filming scenes at the DAR Headquarters Building in Washington, D.C., for TLC’s “Who Do You Think You Are?” which follows the journeys of celebrities as they discover unknown details about themselves and their families while researching their ancestry with the help of historians and genealogical experts.  http://www.tlc.com/tv-shows/who-do-you-think-you-are/

Bill Paxton filming scenes at the DAR Headquarters Building in Washington, D.C., for TLC’s “Who Do You Think You Are?” which follows the journeys of celebrities as they discover unknown details about themselves and their families while researching their ancestry with the help of historians and genealogical experts. http://www.tlc.com/tv-shows/who-do-you-think-you-are/

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Upon entering the DAR Library, Bill Paxton meets the independent genealogist who will be telling him about his ancestor.

Upon entering the DAR Library, Bill Paxton meets the independent genealogist who will be telling him about his ancestor.

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During a break Bill Paxton and the genealogist are able to chat about what he has discovered thus far. The beautiful DAR Library serves as their backdrop.

During a break Bill Paxton and the genealogist are able to chat about what he has discovered thus far. The beautiful DAR Library serves as their backdrop.

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The production team works to set the shot just right.

The production team works to set the shot just right.

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Bill Paxton discovers clues about his Revolutionary War era ancestor in the DAR Library.

Bill Paxton discovers clues about his Revolutionary War era ancestor in the DAR Library.

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Filming close-up shots of the documentation containing information about Bill Paxton’s ancestor.

Filming close-up shots of the documentation containing information about Bill Paxton’s ancestor.

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After learning about his ancestor from the genealogist, Bill Paxton was interviewed in the Pennsylvania Foyer of Memorial Continental Hall by the “Who Do You Think You Are?” production crew to discuss his feelings about what he had discovered at the DAR Library.

After learning about his ancestor from the genealogist, Bill Paxton was interviewed in the Pennsylvania Foyer of Memorial Continental Hall by the “Who Do You Think You Are?” production crew to discuss his feelings about what he had discovered at the DAR Library.

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The DAR was contacted by producers from “Who Do You Think You Are?” (WDYTYA) who were working on a storyline that included a Revolutionary War era ancestor. The researchers utilized the GRS to discover the patriot.

Without being told who the celebrity subject was, DAR worked with the WDYTYA producers to plan the filming at the DAR Library. The DAR team worked closely with the WDYTYA production team to assure accuracy in the portrayal of the DAR Headquarters, organization, and genealogical procedures and requirements.

Many of the aspects of the filming are planned ahead of time in order to effectively produce a compelling program. However, the information presented to the celebrity is a complete surprise to the individual so their reactions and dialogue are unscripted. Bill Paxton was genuinely so excited and moved by the discoveries made at the DAR Library.

The whole WDYTYA production crew was so complimentary of the DAR team that assisted throughout the entire process. 

Clips from the episode are posted on the TLC website here, please watch and share them with your friends and family.  It’s a great opportunity to start a dialogue with someone and tell them more about our wonderful organization!

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