Funding Canceled Funding for this project was canceled by the project creator on November 24.

Film documentary by Emmy-nominated team. The art, science, and hard-work of genealogy. A journey to preserve family history.

Genealogy is a rewarding blend of hard work, art & science.

Kicking Up the Past 

Popular history – by and large – consists of the stories of the rich and famous. Today, television and cable continue the neglect of mainstream historical accounts by highlighting the family origins and histories mainly of Hollywood celebrities – as if these could be the only interesting stories in our shared past. But history told through the lens of the rich and famous is often narrow and lacking in diversity and insight. 

Thanks to all those who have pledged!  We will continue to pursue success in our cause to create, as donor Mary Horton nicely commented: “… the kind of genealogy shows that we as genealogists have all wanted. Great production values and storytelling, combined with reenactment of those stories bring to life the actual research they show us how to do. They have done a great job of balancing both as to appeal to the serious genealogist and the others we hope to attract to this endeavor. This is our chance to have OUR stories told...the everyday immigrants who built this country and made our lives possible.”

What is this about? 

This is a made-for-television documentary about “kicking up” the unique family histories hidden in the past of each American. It is a deep historical dive into those exceptional tales passed down through generations, tales of our ancestors and their bravery, triumph, torture, perseverance, and small but important roles in the greater historical chapters of the country. Why should this history be lost? Or be afforded only to a select few? 

Let's give these great stories the high profile treatment normally reserved for society's elite and powerful. 

This could be you...

Who are we? 

We are Ken J. Marks and Madonna Davis, the creative team that produced LEGEND SEEKERS: THE LIVELY FAMILY MASSACRE -- for public television.

Ken is a television, film and event producer by trade, and Madonna is a teacher, genealogist and television host. The year was 2002 when while we were covered with mud, chiggers and poison-ivy and searching for a long lost relative’s gravestone in the Illinois countryside, that inspiration struck -- if we only had a video camera here to record what is really involved in genealogy research, it would be a new and exciting way to share American history with the public. 

Digging up a family's past isn't an easy process -- especially in the field. The detective work is challenging, at times frightening but genuinely fun. And when we searched deeply, even into our own seemingly mundane family trees, what we found were unforgettable and historically relevant stories. A quick survey of friends' family stories also proved to contain a wealth of compelling content for what might become a great TV show series. And so we got to work.

On location, shooting the film's opening at a historic cemetery
On location, shooting the film's opening at a historic cemetery

We gathered a group of equally passionate professionals, poured our hearts and our savings in to the mix and took a big leap to produce Legend Seekers: The Lively Family Massacre. We invite you to view the trailer, or you can register on our website to watch the full documentary. The results exceeded our expectations. 

The Lively Family Massacre aired on PBS stations across the country and received numerous historical and industry awards, including an EMMY nomination. In addition, we have been interviewed by the media and have appeared in blogspodcasts and newspapers. We also have enjoyed the privilege to speak before many historical societies and genealogy clubs who will inevitably ask us, "When will you produce another episode?" The answer is now with your help.

Meet Tony

Tony Gerard - Historical Technical Authority and Reenactment Coordinator
Tony Gerard - Historical Technical Authority and Reenactment Coordinator

He is a field producer, historical technical consultant and reenactment casting coordinator with numerous History and Discovery Channel credits and Hollywood experience. He has even appeared as talent in The Last of the Mohicans (we dare you to find him). It is not unusual to call and find Tony answering the phone while standing in the middle of a swamp doing field research or while huddled in a museum's archive pouring over documents. He is just one of the experts we will be working with to ensure authenticity on Kicking Up the Past.  

WHY Kickstarter? And... how will we spend your donations?

Our goal is to bring to life the histories that so many of you, our friends, along with thousands of other Americans, want to see – this is for you. In our hearts, we know the grassroots popularity of genealogy is undeniable – and we can't think of a better way to prove this than to enlist your help to make a strong statement. Simply put, our Kickstarter is American grassroots history speaking up with dollars.  

So, to get this project off the ground, we need funding to produce a broadcast-ready pilot for our groundbreaking documentary series. 

First comes the story. Donation funds will be used to cover the costs of conducting historical and genealogical research.

Meet another Tony

Tony Burroughs, FUGA  --  Internationally known genealogist, author and lecturer
Tony Burroughs, FUGA -- Internationally known genealogist, author and lecturer

He has appeared on the PBS series African American Lives and Ancestors, CBS Sunday Morning, CBS News, ABC World News Tonight and the Discovery Channel. Tony is part of the panel of experts consulting on the  research and story development.

Next comes production – what most of us think of when we think of filmmaking. (It will be the fun part for some backers who claim participation in the film as a reward).

Behind the scenes
Behind the scenes

Production costs include: travel and accommodation for the family story member(s), reenactors, producers, hosts and crew to filming locations; wardrobe, makeup, rentals for camera equipment, dollies, steady-cams and cranes; scenery & historical props; lighting and audio equipment required, as well as insurance and location catering costs. 

Post-production is next:  Costs include: scoring and recording of original music; custom animation and graphics, professional editing and finishing – which includes color correction and audio sweetening.

Little Deer - of the Kickapoo
Little Deer - of the Kickapoo

Then there is broadcast finishing – which includes omissions and errors insurance, conforming video and audio to tight engineering standards, transcription and preparation of closed-captioning. 

I am ready to help! -- what do I do next?

To become one of our backers...
Cick on the BIG GREEN BUTTON ▲▲▲UP TOP▲▲▲  to the right of our video.

  • Kickstarter will ask you for your pledge
  • which reward you want, and 
  • how you want to sign up

Remember that you can help make this project a reality not only with your donation, but by engaging your clubs and organizations to spread the word and support our goal.

If you have read this far we can only say – THANK YOU!

Have a question? You can ask the project creators directly:

Our stretch goal

Don’t take this the wrong way, we will be overwhelmingly grateful to hit our film production goal. However, our past experience has taught us something about the fundamental passion & relentless drive of the genealogy community that has yet to be acknowledged by the mainstream public.  We think there is a sleeping giant yet to be awakened in the love, appreciation and historic worth of grassroots family history.  Our vision therefore, as it has been from the beginning, is to create a series of programs -- and so we intend to direct your extended generosity step-by-step toward the goal of a continuing series.

 Again... thank you!

Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

The biggest challenge we face is reaching a significant number of history and genealogy enthusiasts prior to our funding deadline. We have every confidence that when enough people are informed of the project, they will find a way to support it – so spreading the news and links to at least three like-minded people is what we are asking everyone to do.

Although we have had success in gaining broadcast television major market distribution in the past there are no guarantees when and where this program will ultimately be aired.

Your thank you rewards – like t-shirts and posters for helping us make this possible – will be sent out by a third-party fulfillment company. Many elements of the rewards will be fulfilled before October of 2014, which is when we hope to schedule our premieres and screenings. For those of you who are attending an event or joining us on set, we will keep you informed of the schedule.

• For those of you visiting our location shooting, we anticipate shooting in July and August at a domestic location to be determined by the story selected. However, this has the potential to change. We will update so you can plan ahead to visit us.

• If you become an extra or receive a cast credit, you must be a US citizen or have a US work visa, and not be a member of SAG/AFTRA. (This does not apply to those appearing in the credits as project supporters)

• You must be over 18 or accompanied by a parent or legal guardian (who will count as your plus one) to attend the premiere or visit the set. Extras must also be over 18.

• Some rewards may require additional paperwork. You might be required to sign a story release and/or if you are appearing in the film, you will be asked to sign a release. These requirements may be subject to change.

• This fundraising campaign is all subject to applicable Kickstarter rules/regulations, broadcasting rules and applicable law. If any of this conflicts, we will work with you in good faith to give you a substitute reward.

Finally, there are innumerable variables outside of our control that can and will alter the project, how, where and when it is produced, and the manner and timing of how rewards are fulfilled. Significant influencing factors include, but are not limited to, the nature and primary locations of the story selected, the amount of time and effort required to adequately vet research presented prior to production, inclement weather and/or natural disasters, availability and scheduling of filming subjects such as hosts, talent, locations, experts, crew and equipment. It is impossible to guarantee that everything will proceed exactly as planned, but as producers we will endeavor to keep in close communication with the very backers who will have made this project possible. Beyond the rewards, we wish to thank all of you in advance for your donations and your work to spread the word about this innovative project. We are READY TO GO!


  • Great question. While the project goal may seem daunting, the budget is actually quite lean for a professionally produced half-hour of television. Our program is thorough with research, rich with original music and animation, authentic with professional reenactors, and expensive to travel a film crew during the discovery process we all know genealogy involves. (In fact, this is the primary reason most genealogy shows don't show the hard work because the producers are cutting corners to save money. Half hour programs similar to this typically cost $200k+ to produce.

    Thanks for chipping in ... the goal is not insurmountable.

    Last updated:
pledged of $105,000 goal

See full bio

  • Pledge $10 or more
    You selected

    20 backers

    VIDEO NEWSLETTER – Watch every aspect of this documentary's making in-progress! Weekly summaries with behind-the-scenes interviews, genealogy research, historic consultations, casting, costuming, makeup, reenactments, and special effects. A bird's eye view into the making of a historic film documentary. Also, your name displayed on our website with Kicking Up the Past project backers who love grassroots genealogy.

    Estimated delivery:
  • Pledge $20 or more
    You selected

    10 backers

    ORIGINAL MUSIC DOWNLOAD – All the music recorded for the film (full length versions) will be accessible to you via a special link prior to the premier showing. >>> You'll also receive our Research and Production Video Newsletter, and your name will be posted on our website as an official backer of Kicking Up the Past with others doing their part to preserve America's family histories.

    Estimated delivery:
  • Pledge $30 or more
    You selected

    11 backers

    PRE-RELEASE SCREENING – An exclusive live THANK YOU webcast streamed to your computer or mobile device. After the screening live Q&A with "Kicking Up the Past" show host Madonna Davis and producer-director Ken J. Marks online. >>> You'll also receive ALL the REWARDS listed above.

    Estimated delivery:
  • Pledge $40 or more
    You selected

    6 backers

    KICKING UP THE PAST T-SHIRT -- This signature shirt will identify you proudly as a supporter of grassroots genealogy. Backers can feel free to send ideas for slogans. Our Creative Director Kate is working up some beautiful designs. For those of you who dare to "Kick Up the Past." >>> You'll also enjoy ALL of the rewards from the levels above... You'll be just plain cool in this shirt!

    Estimated delivery:
    Add $11 USD to ship outside the US
  • Pledge $60 or more
    You selected

    1 backer Limited (221 left of 222)

    LIMITED EDITION FINE ART PRINT -- A signed film documentary poster suitable for framing will feature a dramatic historic scenes right out of this Kicking Up the Past story. Fine art prints will be numbered and signed by the artist & show host Madonna Davis. >>> You will be able also to enjoy ALL the rewards from the levels above EXCEPT the Kicking Up the Past tee-shirt.

    Estimated delivery:
    Add $18 USD to ship outside the US
  • Pledge $75 or more
    You selected

    3 backers Limited (297 left of 300)

    HONOR YOUR GENEALOGY CLUB OR SOCIETY -- YOUR ORGANIZATION'S NAME in the CLOSING CREDITS – This is one backer's good idea we've turned into a special reward. Show that your organization supports quality historical television production >>> This reward will be also included for pledges at $100 and above.

    Estimated delivery:
  • Pledge $100 or more
    You selected

    8 backers

    YOUR NAME in the CLOSING CREDITS & a SIGNED DVD – A perfect gift for someone special – a DVD signed by host Madonna Davis will really mean something to gift recipients, especially when they are surprised to find their name in the closing credits. >>> Also you'll have the trendy Kicking Up the Past T-shirt along with ALL of the rewards from the above levels EXCEPT the limited edition print.

    Estimated delivery:
    Add $18 USD to ship outside the US
  • Pledge $250 or more
    You selected

    4 backers Limited (337 left of 341)

    SUBMIT YOUR FAMILY STORY! -- Your family story will be registered on and you'll receive a formal CERTIFICATE acknowledging your dedication to researching and preserving family history. Your story will also be READ BY THE PRODUCERS of the series. Who knows? ...YOUR STORY may be the MOST INTERESTING we've seen for the PROJECT. >>> And you'll enjoy ALL of the rewards from the above levels EXCEPT the limited edition print. Your family story summary will also be featured on our project website.

    Estimated delivery:
  • Pledge $500 or more
    You selected

    1 backer Limited (17 left of 18)

    CHICAGO PREMIERE PARTY – You and your guest will attend the Chicago premier party of Kicking Up the Past and will be introduced to cast members, crew, show consultants, producers and the host, Madonna Davis. >>> Also, you will enjoy ALL of the REWARDS from the above levels EXCEPT the limited edition print. All food and beverages at the party are included. Backers will provide their own transportation and accommodations. Date tbd.

    Estimated delivery:
  • Pledge $1,200 or more
    You selected

    0 backers Limited (11 left of 11)

    LOCATION VIP PASS for HISTORICAL REENACTMENT SCENES – You and a guest will witness lights, camera and action and meet the actors and director and rest of the crew at lunch & breaks. >>> Also, you will enjoy ALL of the REWARDS from the above levels EXCEPT the limited edition print. All food & beverages and film location ground transportation is provided to VIP Guests. VIP Guests will be required to provide their own primary transportation and accommodations to location. Location shoot dates tbd.

    Estimated delivery:
  • Pledge $2,500 or more
    You selected

    0 backers Limited (4 left of 4)

    PERFORM ON-CAMERA IN THE HISTORICAL REENACTMENTS. – Bring your guest on-location to watch you get MAKE-UP, COSTUMES, PROPS find the motivation for your big scene appearing as an extra in a made for TV Documentary. You will meet your fellow actors, the director and rest of the crew. >>> Also, you will receive ALL of the REWARDS from the LEVELS above EXCEPT the Limited edition print. All food & beverages and film location ground transportation is provided to extras and their guest. Extras will be required to provide their own primary transportation and accommodations to location. Dates tbd.

    Estimated delivery:
  • Pledge $3,500 or more
    You selected

    0 backers Limited (2 left of 2)

    PRIVATE SCREENING & PERSONAL APPEARANCE at your CLUB or ORGANIZATION meeting by show host MADONNA DAVIS & producer KEN J. MARKS. Domestic Roundtrip airfare for producers is included. Backers will provide suitable ground transportation, hotel accommodations & meal expense. >>> Also, you will also enjoy ALL of the REWARDS from the above LEVELS EXCEPT the Limited edition print, VIP pass or On-Camera Extra opportunity.

    Estimated delivery:
  • Pledge $5,000 or more
    You selected

    0 backers Limited (1 left of 1)

    LUNCH with MADONNA DAVIS & 12 HOURS OF RESEARCH by the KICKING UP THE PAST EXPERT TEAM to help you unlock your families past. >>> Also, you will also enjoy ALL of the REWARDS from the above LEVELS EXCEPT the Limited edition print, On-Camera Extra opportunity, or Live Genealogy presentation at your club. Suitable HOST transportation, accommodations or research-related records' fees are not included.

    Estimated delivery:
Funding period

- (46 days)