Their European immigrant ancestors blazed unconventional trails in America, from capturing British ships for the American Revolution to crossing racial barriers in slave-era Louisiana. Generations later, as children growing up in New Orleans, Harry Connick, Jr. and Branford Marsalis found a deep and abiding friendship through their common love of jazz and of the city itself. In this hour, we trace the turbulent and contradictory history of the city of New Orleans through the family stories of these two fascinating men.
In this episode, we feature two African American politicians from different generations and opposite backgrounds. John Lewis grew up in a sharecropping family in rural Georgia, while Cory Booker was raised in an affluent, all-white New Jersey suburb. Although both men have devoted their lives to the betterment of African-American people, neither of them knows much about their own ancestors. In this episode, we introduce Booker to his white great-grandfather, a man he never knew, and move Lewis to tears over the extraordinary ambitions and accomplishments of his slave ancestors..
What's in a name? Well, a lot, at least when it comes to piecing together your family history. For former slaves, choosing a last name was one of their first acts of freedom. For Jewish immigrants, it was a way to fit in their new country. Whatever the reason for a name change, it can make the process of learning about one's ancestors difficult, if not impossible. In this episode, we unearth missing links in the family histories of media legend Barbara Walters and educational superstar Geoffrey Canada. Walters did not know her father's real last name. Canada did not know the name of his grandfather. Both of them had been unable to access their history... until now.
What do Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick have in common? They are both famous actors and both descend from prominent American families that have been in this country since its inception. But they share something else, too: both had ancestors who were early opponents of slavery. Bacon's Quaker ancestors repudiated slavery long before the rest of the country, in 1780. And Sedgwick's ancestor Theodore Sedgwick argued the freedom case of Elizabeth Freeman, also known as "Mumbet," in 1781 -- which helped bring an end to slavery in Massachusetts. We reveal this fact - and many others - to Sedgwick and Bacon in this episode, and learn quite a bit about slavery in the North in the process.
Pastor Rick Warren, Rabbi Angela Buchdahl and Sheik Yasir Qadhi are of three different faiths, all with complex family histories that profoundly shaped their religious beliefs. Our research of their roots unearthed a story about the spiritual foundations of this country, an unrelenting struggle to achieve our ideal of religious freedom and tolerance, but also the difficulties sometimes of holding onto one's faith and still feeling like an "authentic" American.
Many American descend from a dense soups of European ethnicities; we could call them mutts, with ancestral roots across every country in Europe. Actors Robert Downey, Jr. and Maggie Gyllenhaal are textbook examples of Americans with a rich tapestry of European immigrant stories making up their family trees. We delve in to their deep American roots in early colonial communities, and we meet their Eastern European Jewish ancestors, who share almost identical migration stories From the Mayflower to Ellis Island, we journey through centuries of immigration that shaped and built our melting pot nation.
Samuel L. Jackson, Condoleezza Rice and Brown University President Ruth Simmons have each climbed to the pinnacle of their profession, yet each started life as a second class citizen in the Jim Crow south. In this episode we will use DNA to investigate family mysteries: where do they come from in Africa, and who are the white men in their family trees?
Sanjay Gupta, Margaret Cho and Martha Stewart are children of first- or second-generation immigrants.
Ken Burns learns that his Southern ancestors include Confederate soldiers and a slave owner; Anderson Cooper learns that an ancestor on his father's side was killed by one of his slaves; and Anna Deavere Smith learns about her great-grandfather, who was a free black man and former conductor on the Underground Railroad.
In the Season 2 finale, DNA analysis uncovers previously unknown roots in the family trees of Jessica Alba and Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick. Alba, for instance, learns that she's descended from the official cartographer of France's King Louis XIV; and Patrick discovers his ancestors include a black homesteader in Colorado. DNA analysis is also used to delve deeper into the family histories of Anderson Cooper, Valerie Jarrett and host Henry Louis Gates Jr. himself.
Two guests linked by one hilarious impersonation trace their roots from 1940s Brooklyn back to Jewish communities in Europe. Larry David discovers his German heritage by way of ancestors who settled in Mobile, Alabama in the mid-19th century — including one who became a slaveholding Confederate; Bernie Sanders gains greater understanding of his father’s dangerous childhood in Austrian Galicia during World War I. Both guests discover what happened to the family members who were still in Europe during the Holocaust — Larry David’s grandfather lost nine siblings; Bernie Sanders’ uncle, a member of the Limanowa Judenrat, heroically went head to head with a Nazi officer. Through DNA testing, our guests learn that there is more to their uncanny likeness than they ever suspected.
Carly Simon, Christopher Walken, and Fred Armisen each learn about a grandparent whose real identity and background had been a mystery to them.
Ted Danson, Mary Steenburgen and William H. Macy, three mainstays of modern-day Hollywood discover family legacies that predate the United States itself.
vTa-Nehisi Coates, Ava DuVernay and Janet Mock, three guests who have helped to redefine Black America in the last decade find their identities challenged as they learn about their family origins.
In this episode, three guests explore the tremendous challenges faced by their immigrant forebears. On her mother’s family tree, Scarlett Johansson ponders “what if” as she learns that while her Jewish great-grandfather became a grocer in NYC, his brother in Poland was lost to the Warsaw ghetto, along with his family. Turning to her father’s Danish roots, Johansson — a newly-minted Danish citizen herself — learns that her paternal great-grandfather was in fact a Swedish immigrant who came to Denmark as a manual laborer, leaving behind roots in Sweden that go back to 15th century nobility. Paul Rudd follows his roots from Eastern Europe and Russia to England, where his grandfather changed his name from “Rudnitsky”and signed up to fight in World War II; along the way, Rudd learns that anti-Semitic movements in England became motivators for both sides of the family to leave for America. John Turturro sees the details of his mother’s early years in an orphanage as her Italian immigrant father struggled to make ends meet in Brooklyn, only to encounter massive prejudice in the wake of an inter-racial marriage. Turturro also learns about the harsh experiences of his father and grandparents —in both America and Italy — and reflects on what he gained from their sacrifices. In the end, each guest gains a greater understanding of how their immigrant ancestors laid the groundwork for their success.
Bryant Gumbel, Tonya Lewis-Lee and Suzanne Malveaux, three African-American guests delve deep into their family trees, discovering unexpected stories that challenge our assumptions about black history.
Lupita Nyong’o, Carmelo Anthony and Ana Navarro explore how their family trees were shaped by political turmoil and violence, discovering sometimes unexpected ancestry along the way.
Téa Leoni and Gaby Hoffman, two guests whose lives have been shaped by family mysteries are introduced to biological ancestors they never knew they had thanks to genetic detective work.
Questlove, Dr. Phil and Charlayne Hunter-Gault, three guests of disparate backgrounds dig into their Southern roots, where slavery and its aftermath shaped families both black and white.
Garrison Keillor, Amy Schumer and Aziz Ansari, three guests who have found fame mining their family stories for comedy learn about ancestors who overcame immense suffering.