What is the connection between archives and identity? One of the main user groups of archives are family historians who often state that they undertake to find out about their ancestry in order to “find out who they are”. But what does such a claim mean, where did it come from and what is the role of archives in this search for the self? This article explores these questions by examining two modern genealogical texts: Alex Haley’s Roots (1976) and the television programme, Who Do You Think You Are? (2004). These narratives show that archives can be part of the articulation of the self and that they have the potential to disclose the who beyond the private confines of the family to the reader or television audience. In this way, the archive has become a theatre of meaning, memory and self-identity, a performative space in which identities are enacted. The paper concludes by arguing that the connection between archives and identity can be a complex-layered performance that not only articulates the self but also has the potential to connect the self to the other. Such an exploration of the imaginative and performative aspects of archives within such genealogical storytelling is important if we are to further our understanding of the role of archives in contemporary Western society.