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Frederick museum director solves TV history mysteries


 The show 'Who Do You Think You Are?' taught Ashley Judd about her ancestors.
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Date published: 8/16/2011

BY STAN GOLDBERG

THE FREDERICK NEWS-POST

FREDERICK, Md.

--Actress Ashley Judd learned the truth about her great-great-great-grandfather from George Wunderlich, executive director of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine in Frederick.

She thought her ancestor had lost a leg as a Union soldier in the Civil War.

"He supposedly lost his leg at the prison camp in Andersonville, that's all that she knew," said Wunderlich. "What we found out was that he never was a prisoner of war in Andersonville, Ga. He lost the leg in the Battle of Saltville, Va."

The information came to light when the two were working on "Who Do You Think You Are," an NBC television series that traces the genealogy of celebrities such as Judd. Wunderlich was doing research for the program.

He showed her how her ancestor would have been treated and what would have happened to him after surgery.

"She was shocked when she heard how the leg was amputated and what conditions were like in the hospital," said Wunderlich, 48. "She got rather emotional. At one point on the camera, she teared up, which was something I did not expect."

Wunderlich began working with history-related TV programs in 1999. He and a group of people who work with him try to find out the truth about history, mostly from the 1800s.

"It's a bit like a 19th-century myth-buster," he said.

Wunderlich also serves as a commentator, although he rarely sees himself on television because he hasn't owned a TV for 12 years.

He has done 17 shows over the past 21/2 years. Among the shows he's worked on are "The Real Cowboys" and "Battlefield Detectives" for the History Channel, "Who Do You Think You Are" for NBC, "The History Detectives" for PBS and a tourism program for the BBC.

"I consider myself an historical windbag," he said.

It started with his interest in banjos. Then he became interested in ballistics and medical history. Now he's delving into more general history. His main area of expertise is from the 1830s to the 1890s.

"It's kind of expanded expeditiously since I first started doing this back in the 1990s," he said. "I've gotten a reputation for being a fairly easy person to work with. People know that I'm not a pain. People see me on film, evidently like what I did and will ask me to do different things."


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