Local lends expertise on NBC show

Photo by Tori Boone

Photo by Tori Boone

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Brad Quinlin's sixth great-grandfather was Nathaniel Green, a major general of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War and second in command under George Washington.

The Suwanee resident's third great-cousins were the outlaws Frank and Jesse James.

With 20 years of experience doing historical research and tracing family genealogies -- his own and others' -- Quinlin came highly recommended by a historian with the Kennesaw National Mountain Battlefield to help producers and staff of the reality TV series "Who Do You Think You Are?" trace the roots of one of the celebrities featured on the show.

"Who Do You Think You Are?" is an adaptation of an award-winning British documentary series. The show follows American celebrities, from former "Friends" star Lisa Kudrow to "Sex and the City's" Sarah Jessica Parker to retired football player Emmitt Smith, as they sift through history to learn about their ancestors. When actor Matthew Broderick began uncovering a family history that included an ancestor who served as a soldier in the Civil War, Quinlin was asked to lend his services in his area of expertise, having studied that era for more than 30 years.

"American history itself, but the Civil War era, the timeframe from 1861 to 1865, just keeps calling me back," Quinlin said. "It's just such an incredible timeframe of American history. A country torn apart like that for four years over 622,000 casualties and we were able to eventually work ourselves back together and become one of the greatest societies in world history."

Quinlin is no stranger to a camera. As a Civil War re-enactor, he appeared as an extra in the film "Glory," in which Broderick played a Civil War colonel, although the two never met on set. Quinlin also had a speaking part in the NBC TV movie "Perfect Tribute," but "Who Do You Think You Are?" afforded him the opportunity to be more involved in the filming process.

"I got to pick out the spots where we shot and there was no (set) dialogue," he said. "Everything that you will see was Matthew Broderick's original reaction. They didn't do a second take. They wanted everything to be extremely real."

While he hasn't seen the final cut of the episode, which is set to air at 8 p.m. tonight on NBC, Quinlin has been told by the production staff that he will be on camera and should be quite pleased with the outcome.

"To me, it was such a great thing to be a part of and (seeing) Matthew's eyes during the shooting for the day, it seemed like you were opening a new door for him everywhere," Quinlin said of the experience. "I think people when they see this are going to be amazed about the information that exists and how much research they can do on their family history. I think Sarah Jessica Parker (Broderick's wife) said it best on the first (episode) that they did. She said, 'I always felt American but now I felt a part of America.' I think doing your family genealogy and studying it in relation to American history can definitely feel like you have an investment in the past and the future of our country.

"You never know where your family history is going to take you," he said.