Joshua Haynes, an instructor and recent doctoral graduate in the University of Georgia department of history, normally spends his days teaching, conducting research or digging into historical archives. But this summer shortly before defending his dissertation, he spent two days with country music singer Trisha Yearwood as she discovered her family heritage on the TLC television series “Who Do You Think You Are?”
He helped Yearwood, a Georgia native, make sense of how her relatives came to a Colonial state in the 1770s. Haynes’ specialty—Native American history specifically dealing with Muskogee Creek border conflicts—was just what Yearwood needed to make sense of her family’s heritage.
“When TLC contacted me, I thought immediately of Josh for two reasons,” said Claudio Saunt, who is the history department head in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and Richard B. Russell Professor of American History. “First, TLC was interested in learning more about the relationship between Georgia colonists and Native Americans in the 1770s, and Josh had just completed an excellent dissertation on the subject—he’s an expert. Second, he’s a talented teacher, and I knew that he’d excel at speaking to a TV audience about the complexities of early American history.”
Following a genealogy search that led Yearwood from England to Eatonton, Haynes was consulted to help make sense of the context that brought her family to Georgia.
“Trisha Yearwood had an ancestor who was on the border with Creek country,” he said. “And sure enough, he was involved directly in conflict with Creeks.”
Haynes said the opportunity to serve as a historian on TV is of great significance. He’ll be hitting the job market soon, and being visible on a national television show is great exposure.
Plus, working with a multiple Grammy Award-winner was an all-around great experience, Haynes said.