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Jim Parsons

When we went digging into Jim Parsons’ family tree we found his third-great-grandfather was Jean Baptiste Hacker, a physician who was raised in New Orleans but moved to Plaquemine, Louisiana, after starting his medical career. Just a few years later, Dr. Hacker, along with his daughter Leocadie and his nephew, was killed in a tragic fire on board the steamboat Gipsy in December 1854.

Using newspapers, we were able to document the accident in an article titled “The Burning of the Gipsy” on the front page of the Daily Picayune newspaper in New Orleans. The story was also printed in newspapers across the country, such as the Liberator in Boston, Massachusetts. Newspapers provided facts about the event that could not be found in any other record.

We also used newspapers to learn about historic events that occurred in places where the family lived, such as the yellow fever epidemic in Plaquemine in 1853.

Newspapers can provide context and color to your family story, as well as obituaries and notices of marriages, births, graduations, court proceedings, and other noteworthy events in an ancestor’s life. And they are getting easier to find each day as more and more titles are digitized and added to online collections.

Learn more about Jim’s journey or watch the full episode on TLC.com. Watch more celebrities discover their family history on all new episodes of Who Do You Think You Are? Tuesdays 9|8c on TLC.

Research Manager on Project:

Paul K. Graham

Project Hours:

505 Hours

Paul is a graduate of the George Washington University and began his career as a title examiner in Georgia, gaining valuable knowledge of property and probate law and records. He has performed genealogical and historical research for clients since 2004.

His television credits include research into actor-comedian Chris Tucker's roots for African American Lives (2006), as well as the family histories of actor Blair Underwood, chef Paula Deen, and actor Jim Parsons for Who Do You Think You Are? (2012-2013). In 2007 he researched the childhood history and family secrets of Marine Corps Lieutenant General Victor Krulak (dec.) for the biography Brute: The Life of Victor Krulak, U.S. Marine by author Robert Coram. Paul is the author of seven books related to Georgia genealogy and records.