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All Seasons

Season 1

  • S01E01 Harry Connick Jr. - Branford Marsalis

    • March 25, 2012

    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.

  • S01E02 Mayor Cory Booker - Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.)

    • March 25, 2012

    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..

  • S01E03 Barbara Walters - Geoffrey Canada

    • April 1, 2012

    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.

  • S01E04 Kevin Bacon - Kyra Sedgwick

    • April 8, 2012

    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.

  • S01E05 Angela Buchdahl - Rick Warren - Yasir Qadhi

    • April 15, 2012

    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.

  • S01E06 Maggie Gyllenhaal - Robert Downey, Jr.

    • April 22, 2012

    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.

  • S01E07 Samuel L. Jackson - Condoleezza Rice - Ruth Simmons

    • April 29, 2012

    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?

  • S01E08 Sanjay Gupta - Margaret Cho - Martha Stewart

    • May 6, 2012

    Sanjay Gupta, Margaret Cho and Martha Stewart are children of first- or second-generation immigrants.

  • S01E09 John Legend - Wanda Sykes - Margarett Cooper

    • May 13, 2012

  • S01E10 Michelle Rodriguez - Adrian Grenier - Linda Chavez

    • May 20, 2012

Season 2

  • S02E01 In Search of our Fathers

    • September 23, 2014

    Henry Louis Gates explores the paternal ancestry of Stephen King, Courtney Vance and Gloria Reuben.

  • S02E02 Born Champions

    • September 30, 2014

    Billie Jean King, Derek Jeter and Rebecca Lobo learn about their family histories. King discovers that her grandmother was an orphan; Derek Jeter investigates his ancestors' lives as slaves; and Lobo finds out that an ancestor was forced to flee Spain because of his democratic ideals.

  • S02E03 Our American Storytellers

    • October 7, 2014

    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.

  • S02E04 The Melting Pot

    • October 21, 2014

    Chef Tom Colicchio learns the hardships his family endured in Northern Italy; chef Ming Tsai traces his roots back 2,000 years; chef Aarón Sánchez learns his Mexican roots include Spaniards, Africans and Native Americans.

  • S02E05 We Come From People

    • October 28, 2014

    Nas learns about his slave ancestors; Angela Bassett discovers that her family history includes an emancipation story; and Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to President Obama, learns about the free people of color in her family's past

  • S02E06 Our People, Our Traditions

    • November 4, 2014

    Tony Kushner learns how the Holocaust impacted his ancestors; Carole King delves into the origins of her family name; and Alan Dershowitz discovers that an Hassidic synagogue started by his great-grandfather played a secret role in World War II.

  • S02E07 The British Invasion

    • November 11, 2014

    Deepak Chopra, Sting and Sally Field explore the British influence in their family histories.

  • S02E08 Ancient Roots

    • November 18, 2014

    Tina Fey, George Stephanopoulos and David Sedaris, three quintessential voices in American life, descend from ancestors that were part of the wave of Greek immigrants that flooded America’s shores in the early decades of the 20th century.

  • S02E09 Decoding Our Past Through DNA

    • November 25, 2014

    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.

Season 3

  • S03E01 The Stories We Tell

    • January 5, 2016

    The Season 3 premiere features Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, actor Ty Burrell and artist Kara Walker, who learn how the legacy of slavery has helped shape them.

  • S03E02 The Irish Factor

    • January 12, 2016

    Explore the shared Irish ancestry of Soledad O'Brien, Bill O'Reilly and Bill Maher and how they have been deeply influenced by their Irish roots.

  • S03E03 In Search of Freedom

    • January 19, 2016

    Learn how the ancestors of Maya Rudolph, Shonda Rhimes and Keenen Ivory Wayans struggled for freedom, and how each of these cultural trailblazers gain a new understanding of how they fit into this proud trajectory.

  • S03E04 Tragedy + Time = Comedy

    • January 26, 2016

    Uncover a history of tragedies and triumphs in the families of three of America's funniest men--Jimmy Kimmel, Norman Lear and Bill Hader-as they learn how comedy truly has its place in all aspects of life.

  • S03E05 Visionaries

    • February 2, 2016

    Discover how the ancestors of business mogul Richard Branson and architects Maya Lin and Frank Gehry took audacious risks to create opportunities, and how their luck, ingenuity and chutzpah was passed on to these three visionaries.

  • S03E06 War Stories

    • February 9, 2016

    Senator John McCain and Oscar winning actresses Julianne Moore and Patricia Arquette sit down with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. to look at the military service in their families.

  • S03E07 Family Reunions

    • February 16, 2016

    Uncover family mysteries about two legends of hip hop, Sean Combs and LL Cool J, through the use of DNA technology that reveals information that shakes their very foundations.

  • S03E08 The Pioneers

    • February 23, 2016

    Discover how Neil Patrick Harris, Gloria Steinem and Sandra Cisneros are connected to pioneers who broke new ground and paved the way for their modern day descendants to continue shaping our culture.

  • S03E09 The Long Way Home

    • March 1, 2016

    Discover how actress Julianna Marguiles, author Azar Nafisi and chef Lidia Bastianich are bound together by their ancestors' singular and deeply human desire to preserve their most cherished traditions.

Season 4

  • S04E01 The Impression

    • October 3, 2017

    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.

  • S04E02 Unfamiliar Kin

    • October 10, 2017

    Carly Simon, Christopher Walken, and Fred Armisen each learn about a grandparent whose real identity and background had been a mystery to them.

  • S04E03 Puritans and Pioneers

    • October 17, 2017

    Ted Danson, Mary Steenburgen and William H. Macy, three mainstays of modern-day Hollywood discover family legacies that predate the United States itself.

  • S04E04 The Vanguard

    • October 24, 2017

    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.

  • S04E05 Immigrant Nation

    • October 31, 2017

    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.

  • S04E06 Black Like Me

    • November 7, 2017

    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.

  • S04E07 Children Of The Revolution

    • November 14, 2017

    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.

  • S04E08 Relatives We Never Knew We Had

    • November 21, 2017

    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.

  • S04E09 Southern Roots

    • December 12, 2017

    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.

  • S04E10 Funny Business

    • December 19, 2017

    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.