Family: we spend holidays wishing that we could avoid them, and then, for many Americans, the rest of our time trying to hunt them down. Genealogy is, depending on who you consult, either the fastest growing hobby in the U.S., the most popular pastime in the U.S., or just so hot right now.

Two new TV shows are banking on the last. In "Faces of America with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.," the final episode of which airs this Wednesday on PBS, Gates turns Godlike while unveiling the genetic ties and secret heredity of, among others, Meryl Streep, Malcolm Gladwell, and Stephen Colbert. In a tense television smackdown, "Faces" will shortly be joined by the near-mimic British import "Who Do You Think You Are?," set to air on NBC starting March 5th, which promises to do the same for the likes of Sarah Jessica Parker and Spike Lee. The latter has also spawned an eponymous book, "Who Do You Think You Are: The Essential Guide to Tracing Your Family History," written by Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak (cutely abbreviated on the dust jacket to Megan Smolenyak2) who describes herself as "Chief Genealogical Consultant".

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