WDYTYA; May 11

Jason as Mitt Romney

Jason Sudikis is a comedian known best as a cast member on Saturday Night Live. This week on Who Do You Think You Are?, he is in search of his paternal grandfather.  The preview mentions someone with two families. It also teases about an accident in a coal mine in Pennsylvania. It is known that Jason’s family was originally from Lithuania. He was born in Virginia but raised in Kansas.

Who Do You Think You Are? airs Friday at 9 p.m. (eastern and western) on NBC. Also don’t forget that you can see past episodes and some deleted scenes on the WDYTYA video page.


One Comment

  1. Let me add my voice to the chorus of commenters decrying the shoddy research and analysis for the Jason Sudeikis episode of WDYTYA.

    More than half of that episode revolves around two hypotheses: 1) that Jason’s great-grandfather, Stanley Sudeikis Sr., abandoned his wife and son in Chicago and married another woman in Bridgeport, Connecticut without obtaining a divorce from his first wife, in the process lying about his marital status on the Connecticut marriage license application, and 2) that Jason’s great-great grandfather was Joseph Sudeikis, a miner in Schuykill County, Pennsylvania, who was killed in a 1901 mine accident involving a gas explosion. Much of the emotional impact of the episode hinges on Jason’s reaction to learning about these incidents and his reflection on how they may have affected subsequent generations of his family.

    Trouble is, these hypotheses may be false. At the very least, they were not convincingly proved by the evidence presented in the show.

    To be fair, the experts and researchers interviewed in the show qualified their responses and comments, as you would expect professional historians and genealogists to do. However, the writers and producers of the show, and Jason himself, showed no similar restraint and seemed to accept without question the truth of the two hypotheses outlined above.

    As other commenters have noted, the abandonment hypothesis is largely discredited by two important records that were curiously not mentioned in the show even though they are readily available on Ancestry.com: 1) the birth record of Michalina Sudeikis, daughter of Stanley Sudeikis and Michalina Bielska, born on 20 January 1921 in Chicago, and 2) the 1930 census record showing Stanley Sudeikis living in Chicago with his wife Michalina and son Stanley Jr.

    In addition, I question why other documents that would shed light on the abandonment hypothesis were not produced and discussed, including Stanley Sudeikis’ death record and burial record (according to Findagrave.com, his wife Michalina aka Emma was buried in St. Casimir Cemetery in Chicago, with her sister and her family, but there is no listing in Findagrave for Stanley). Chicago city directories for the period after Stanley is alleged to have married a second wife in Connecticut would also be instructive. These records are not available online but surely could have been found with the budget and phalanx of researchers available to ProGenealogists, the self-described “official researchers” for Ancestry.com, who conduct the research for WDYTYA.

    What makes the whole thing disturbing to me, in addition to the questionable quality of research and analysis, is the severity of the allegations against Stanley Sudeikis Sr. After all, abandonment, bigamy and perjury are crimes. Responsible genealogists would not make public allegations of this nature against persons, living or dead, without solid evidence to back them up.

    As for the second hypothesis – that Stanley Sudeikis Sr. of Chicago was the son of Joseph Sudeikis, the Pennsylvania miner – the evidence and analysis presented were equally weak. It’s true that Stanley’s marriage record in Chicago identified him as the son of Joseph Sudeikis and Maryanna Gecaite. It’s also true that Joseph and Mary Sudeikis living in Schuykill County, Pennsylvania in 1900 probably had a son Stanislaw, as evidenced by the 1900 ship passenger list displayed on the show. But here’s the critical, unanswered question: how do we know that Stanislaw son of Joseph and Mary living in Pennsylvania was the same person as Stanley who later married and lived in Chicago? The sad thing is that there are numerous records that might have proved that link, such as the death record of Mary Sudeikis and the marriage records of their other children, any of which might have mentioned Mary’s maiden name. That would have been the clincher. Surely these records could and should have been located and discussed on the show.

    My conclusion: the Jason Sudeikis episode was good entertainment, bad genealogy.

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