MONTGOMERY AND FULTON COUNTIES — Sifting through local archives and helping people research their family history is all in a day’s work for Montgomery County Historian Kelly Farquhar.
She recently used those skills to assist actor Nick Offerman with tracing his family history as part of the NBC series “Who Do You Think You Are?”
The actor and the show’s production team came to the area last fall and filmed at Montgomery County’s local history and genealogy research library among other locations for an episode slated to air at 7 p.m. Sunday.
“It was a really great experience,” Farquhar said.
The Emmy Award-winning documentary series started more than a decade ago and is an adaptation of the British series of the same name. In each episode, historians and other experts help trace the family history of featured celebrities, like John Stamos, Martin Sheen and Megan Mullally (who is Offerman’s wife). The latest season kicked off earlier this month with actor Billy Porter. Subsequent episodes are slated to feature Offerman, Allison Janney, Zachary Quinto, Bradley Whitford and Zachary Levi.
“I love the show,” Farquhar said. “I’ve worked here for such a long time and I’ve been like ‘When are they going to come here?’”
While she wasn’t at liberty to divulge details about Offerman’s tie to Montgomery or Fulton County, the preview clips released by NBC mention an ancestor who was a soldier in the Revolutionary War. The clips also mention that Offerman’s family was in the tavern business.
“I’m desperately curious to find out about my family,” Offerman says in one clip.
Offerman’s episode was originally set to film in the Capital Region in 2020, right around the time the pandemic shut everything down. Finally, last summer, production started up again, and throughout Labor Day weekend, the crew filmed around downtown Albany, as well as at the Montgomery County local history and genealogy research library and the Johnstown Public Library.
The imposing library, which was built around the turn of the last century with financial assistance from Andrew Carnegie, was shut down for the day for filming. According to Library Director Erica Wing, the crew filmed exterior shots, along with quite a few scenes in one of the library’s reading rooms.
“We have an addition that was put on in the ’90s and our entrance to the building is now through that addition. The original entrance is just an emergency exit, but they were very interested in using that as the main entrance in their shots. So it’ll be interesting to see how they portray it in the show,” Wing said.
While Wing wasn’t privy to Offerman’s connection to the area, she noted that the production team did request library books on Sir William Johnson (1715 – 1774), a British Army officer who is considered the founder of Johnstown.
“They definitely rearranged some books to make sure that they made it into the shot,” Wing said. “I’m just as curious as anyone else.”
During the filming process, both Wing and Farquhar were able to meet Offerman, who is best known for his role as Ron Swanson in the sitcom “Parks and Recreation,” and is also the author of several books, including “Where the Deer and the Antelope Play: The Pastoral Observations of One Ignorant American Who Loves to Walk Outside.”
“He was lovely, a really nice individual,” Wing said.
“He was very interested in the local history,” Farquhar said. “He was interested in the department and fascinated by our exhibits. [He’s] just very personable.”
This is the second show that’s been filmed at the Johnstown Library in recent years. An episode of Discovery Plus’s “True Conviction,” featuring former Fulton County District Attorney Chad Brown and host Anna-Sigga Nicolazzi, was filmed there last fall and aired in March.
Wing wasn’t sure until the previews for “Who Do You Think You Are?” were released how prominently the library would be featured.
“It does seem like we are going to play pretty heavily in [the show]. So we’re looking forward to that,” Wing said. “Anything to paint the library in a different light. We always look for that.”
The docu-series marks the first time a national television show has been filmed at the Montgomery County local history and genealogy research library and Farquhar hopes it gives the department more visibility.
“A lot of people know about us now but I hope that with the show it’ll give us a wider audience and make more people aware of our collections,” Farquhar said.
For more about the show, visit NBC.com.
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