Preview: History’s Our War combines genealogy with war veteran stories

I’m a huge fan of genealogy series. Whether it’s Who Do You Think You Are? or Finding Your Roots, I can’t get enough of the tales of family from peoples’ pasts. I was excited to learn more about Lark Productions’ latest, Our War, which follows the descendants of Canadian war veterans as they learn what their family members did during the First and Second World Wars. Many stories have been forgotten; even more, have never been told.

Debuting Friday at 9 p.m. ET/PT on History Channel, the four-part Our War is a real-life genealogical investigation that reveals the past through a younger generation.

In the first installment, we follow Stephanie Watts, who is on a mission to learn more about her great-great-grandfather Samuel. Other than some scant information about him serving as an Army band member in the First World War and some photos, his life, and his role in the war are a blank. The quest begins in Calgary, where Stephanie, who is Caucasian, reflects on learning, as a child, that Samuel was Black. Then it’s off to learn more about a missing Memorial Plaque, also known as a “Death Penny,” in his name and given to families of those killed in the First World War. With help from Militaria Auctioneer Linda Baggaley and War Memorabilia dealer Marvin Taylor, Stephanie learns the story of the Death Penny and how rare they are.

Meanwhile, in Winnipeg, Chris Black is looking for some answers of his own. His grandfather, Edward Walter Drost, was injured in Anzio while fighting in Italy during the Second World War. One of Chris’ last conversations with his grandfather has led Chris on a quest to learn more about a word Edward uttered: Camino.

Then it’s back to Stephanie, who learns Samuel’s birthplace, and the circumstances he grew up in before coming to Canada on the promise of land in the Prairies from history teacher Christian Mbanza (above right, with Stephanie). It’s fascinating to learn about Canada circa 1907, when Samuel arrived in small-town Alberta, determined to make a go of it and to see Stephanie’s reaction when she’s presented with documents she’s never seen.

In the second episode, airing Friday at 10 p.m. ET/PT, a teenage descendant of legendary Onondaga runner Tom Longboat learns of his ancestor’s valiant, yet little-known, actions during the First World War.

Our War is an incredible, and exciting way, of telling the stories of these Canadian heroes. Fingers crossed there is another season of Our War to come next year.

Our War airs Fridays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on History Channel.

Image courtesy of Lark Productions.