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Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates Jr.

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On 2/24/2021 at 9:31 PM, mertensia said:

Johnny's paternal grandmother (according to wiki) said she had some Cherokee ancestry. That easily could have been black ancestry instead.

That’s the conclusion i came to a long time ago. My grandmother’s grandmother was allegedly Native American but I think she was probably mixed race and passed as white. I have nothing to base that on, just a feeling. 

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7.7 "The New World" aired, covering the ancestry of John Lithgow and María Hinojosa aired on TV tonight, but only the preview is up on the website as I type.
I think we all agree that 2 stories are better than 3. 🙂
Maybe because I was multi-tasking, I mostly loved the period oil paintings of ships at sea from the time of Lithgow's ancestors. 

Both María Hinojosa and HLG jr seemed to presume that her maternal indigenous ancestor would have not been romantically linked to the man whose child(ren) she bore, but it seems to me that if Hinojosa's only indigenous link was that one, that likely they did at least live as husband and wife, because otherwise the children would have gone on to have families with other indigenous people, right? 

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3 hours ago, shapeshifter said:

Both María Hinojosa and HLG jr seemed to presume that her maternal indigenous ancestor would have not been romantically linked to the man whose child(ren) she bore, but it seems to me that if Hinojosa's only indigenous link was that one, that likely they did at least live as husband and wife, because otherwise the children would have gone on to have families with other indigenous people, right? 

One would hope.  She could also have been a servant in his home and he could have kept her as his concubine, consensual or not.  She could have also died in childbirth and the father could have taken the child and had his wife raise it, especially if her family had died in the various illnesses and wars associated with the Mexican conquest.  

I can only imagine how it must feel to find out that your ancestors was one of the principal Conquistadors.  Also, if Lithgow's ancestor hadn't been so capable, the Massachusetts Bay Colony might well have died out and a whole lot of history could have been different. 

The ending was definitely a nice twist.

Edited by SophiaD
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Always love John Lithgow! When Mr. Gates told John Lithgow he's a descendent of William Bradford, my jaw dropped. I remember reading about him in school. I can't imagine learning about a famous ancestor you read about in school. 

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6 hours ago, Arcadiasw said:

Always love John Lithgow! When Mr. Gates told John Lithgow he's a descendent of William Bradford, my jaw dropped. I remember reading about him in school. I can't imagine learning about a famous ancestor you read about in school. 

I've always loved John Lithgow too.  I've always felt he was a kindred spirit and now I know why, we both descend from William Bradford!  I guess that makes us cousins of some kind.  I've known that I'm a Mayflower descendant for about 15 years now thanks to Ancestry.com and a professional book of genealogy in which I found my great grandparents' names.  I wish I knew this earlier - I'm just glad I found out well before my father passed away.  He was amazed and of course we wasted no time visiting the recreated Plymouth Plantation, which was a lot of fun.  We also descend from the Billingtons, both father and son, although their history isn't any source of pride.

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7 hours ago, Arcadiasw said:

can't imagine learning about a famous ancestor you read about in school

Since there is zero chance I am related to anyone from the Mayflower, but since I also have an overactive imagination, I like to imagine that we are Einstein’s not too distant cousins––especially when I can’t find my car in the parking lot (or worse, a parking structure) I try to turn off the anxiety by thinking of this story and reassuring myself that I too will figure out a solution:

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Someone once called the dean's office for directions. "How do I get to Albert Einstein's home?" the caller asked. When the man at the dean's office said he couldn't give out those directions, there was a pause on the other end. Then, a sigh, and a response: "This is Albert Einstein. I got lost walking home  from the campus." 
http://www.capitalcentury.com/1933.html

Not likely that we are closely related, but I do wonder if Finding Your Roots might reverse engineer the format a bit by starting with a famous person from the past and then locating a descendant in the present who is related, and then determining who else is part of that tree. 

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I was interested in both stories, especially Lithgow's paternal great grandfather. 

What continues to bug me, however, is the way the show sort of Plinkos it's way up the family tree to find the story they want to tell. They went back ten generations for both guests without ever showing us the branches of that tree and how the guests were connected. Lithgow's ancestor from the Mayflower was obviously not a Lithgow, for example. Sometimes the camera will do an obligatory pan up the family tree very quickly but they didn't even do that this time. It was just "here are your ten times great grandparents names." Somehow, it just isn't as compelling to me when it's someone's mother's mother's father's mother's father's father's mother's father etc. I want to see more of a direct line. I want them to trace the Lithgow name as far back as they can, but Lithgow's ten times great grandfather on a strict paternal line probably doesn't have an interesting story they want to tell or could find.

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36 minutes ago, iMonrey said:

I was interested in both stories, especially Lithgow's paternal great grandfather. 

What continues to bug me, however, is the way the show sort of Plinkos it's way up the family tree to find the story they want to tell. They went back ten generations for both guests without ever showing us the branches of that tree and how the guests were connected. Lithgow's ancestor from the Mayflower was obviously not a Lithgow, for example. Sometimes the camera will do an obligatory pan up the family tree very quickly but they didn't even do that this time. It was just "here are your ten times great grandparents names." Somehow, it just isn't as compelling to me when it's someone's mother's mother's father's mother's father's father's mother's father etc. I want to see more of a direct line. I want them to trace the Lithgow name as far back as they can, but Lithgow's ten times great grandfather on a strict paternal line probably doesn't have an interesting story they want to tell or could find.

Both of these family trees would be fascinating to see in their entirety, but I guess for reasons of privacy they don’t show much ––especially since there would be countless relatives to contact, with little chance that all would agree to making it public. 

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Gates mentioned that they tested Maria Hinojosa and she had indigenous DNA, but unless I wasn't paying attention they didn't show her "pie chart" like they often do.   I wondered why.   And they didn't do Lithgow's, either, probably because it is 99.9% European and boring.

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How many other guests turned the page to see HLG Jr's photo?  I remember one other but cannot remember who.

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8 minutes ago, deirdra said:

How many other guests turned the page to see HLG Jr's photo?  I remember one other but cannot remember who.

I remember Amy Schumer. Norah O'Donnell is cousin to HLG father.

 

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9 hours ago, shapeshifter said:

Since there is zero chance I am related to anyone from the Mayflower, but since I also have an overactive imagination, I like to imagine that we are Einstein’s not too distant cousins––especially when I can’t find my car in the parking lot (or worse, a parking structure) I try to turn off the anxiety by thinking of this story and reassuring myself that I too will figure out a solution:

I think shows like this one show that we never know who we're related to.  I think you may have more chance than you may think of being related to Einstein.  I've often wondered about that myself with my Jewish side.  I've read that Ashkenazi Jews are more closely related to each other than a lot of other ethnic populations.  It's one reason why I am always matched to so many Jewish cousins on 23 and Me and Ancestry DNA.  

9 hours ago, iMonrey said:

What continues to bug me, however, is the way the show sort of Plinkos it's way up the family tree to find the story they want to tell. They went back ten generations for both guests without ever showing us the branches of that tree and how the guests were connected. Lithgow's ancestor from the Mayflower was obviously not a Lithgow, for example. Sometimes the camera will do an obligatory pan up the family tree very quickly but they didn't even do that this time. It was just "here are your ten times great grandparents names." Somehow, it just isn't as compelling to me when it's someone's mother's mother's father's mother's father's father's mother's father etc. I want to see more of a direct line. I want them to trace the Lithgow name as far back as they can, but Lithgow's ten times great grandfather on a strict paternal line probably doesn't have an interesting story they want to tell or could find.

Yeah, that bugged me too.  I don't remember specifically but it seemed like they didn't used to skip back in the tree so far without at least making an attempt at connecting it to the present first.

When I got into studying my own genealogy the first thing I realized is that we are just as descended from all the people in our trees and not any more related to the ones that share our surname.  And in most cases the most notable of our ancestors are not on our father's father's father's father's side.  That is only one thread in a tree with many, many branches.  Seeing it as more significant than any other branch is a very paternalistic, linear way of looking at things that isn't based in any reality.

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4 minutes ago, Yeah No said:

When I got into studying my own genealogy the first thing I realized is that we are just as descended from all the people in our trees and not any more related to the ones that share our surname.  And in most cases the most notable of our ancestors are not on our father's father's father's father's side.  That is only one thread in a tree with many, many branches.  Seeing it as more significant than any other branch is a very paternalistic, linear way of looking at things that isn't based in any reality.

I feel the same way, and on many occasions have figured out what country/province/township someone moved to by following their older married siblings, cousins or neighbours they grew up with since few people moved across the globe to a place where they knew nobody. And the marriage & birth records of the siblings etc's families provide locations to check census records for the person I'm trying to find. I can trace my surname direct line only back to 1750, but my other three (non-surname) grandparents to the 1500s.

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Both of these family trees would be fascinating to see in their entirety, but I guess for reasons of privacy they don’t show much ––especially since there would be countless relatives to contact, with little chance that all would agree to making it public. 

With the possible exception of their parents (which they did show) neither of these guests would have had older ancestors that were still alive. No need to get permission to show the names of ancestors who have been dead over 100 years. 

Maria Hinojosa tracing her roots to someone rather infamous in the 1500s and Lithgow tracing his roots back to someone on the Mayflower is certainly interesting, but it would be MORE interesting to know, exactly, how they are descended from those people. I don't think that's too much to ask of a genealogy show. Just saying "Guess what? Your 10x great grandpa is so-and-so!" is kind of lazy, at best. Hinky, at worst.

Edited by iMonrey
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5 minutes ago, iMonrey said:
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Both of these family trees would be fascinating to see in their entirety, but I guess for reasons of privacy they don’t show much ––especially since there would be countless relatives to contact, with little chance that all would agree to making it public. 

With the possible exception of their parents (which they did show) neither of these guests would have had older ancestors that were still alive. No need to get permission to show the names of ancestors who have been dead over 100 years. 

Maria Hinojosa tracing her roots to someone rather infamous in the 1500s and Lithgow tracing his roots back to someone on the Mayflower is certainly interesting, but it would be MORE interesting to know, exactly, how they are descended from those people.

I was assuming that other, living descendants would have to give permission, but maybe that’s not necessary?

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I was assuming that other, living descendants would have to give permission, but maybe that’s not necessary?

I doubt that very much. It would make this show overly complicated.

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On 4/15/2021 at 5:16 PM, shapeshifter said:

I was assuming that other, living descendants would have to give permission, but maybe that’s not necessary?

It would be impossible to determine what could be thousands of living descendants, contact them and get permissions.  They are dealing with public records and history, not confidential information about living people.  My family tree with 3,000 people is on Ancestry as well as the trees of millions of others and anyone with an Ancestry membership can look at it.  No living individuals can be seen, nor anyone born less that a hundred years ago with no death date given (it is assumed that people aged less than 100 could be alive).

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I watched the latest episode with Mr. ShelleySue and our 20something son.  We all instantly knew that who William Bradford was we had all learned about him in elementary school. Mr. ShelleySue and I learned about him in the 60's and 70's and our son more recently.  We live in Massachusetts so our son went to Plimouth Planation on field trips but my husband and I grew up in two different parts of the country.  We were all shocked that John Lithgow had never heard the name.

Echoing what other people have said -- How did they only feature two people and not go into more detail?  I've seen shows with three people and it seems like more information was given.  

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1 hour ago, ShelleySue said:

I watched the latest episode with Mr. ShelleySue and our 20something son.  We all instantly knew that who William Bradford was we had all learned about him in elementary school. Mr. ShelleySue and I learned about him in the 60's and 70's and our son more recently.  We live in Massachusetts so our son went to Plimouth Planation on field trips but my husband and I grew up in two different parts of the country.  We were all shocked that John Lithgow had never heard the name.

This! And not only William Bradford's name. In the passage Prof. Gates had him read, he seemed to breeze right over the mention of Capt. Standish. Seriously, Miles Standish didn't ring a bell either? I was gobsmacked! (I don't think I've ever used that adjective to describe my reaction before, but it's the only word that fits this situation.)

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Both guests have people of different races in their family trees so perhaps they did not want to show the names of any rapists or slave owners in a camera scan up their trees like we've seen for other guests.

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For the Don Lemon and Gretchen Carlson episode - the only thing that piqued my interest was Gretchen Carlson saying after she won Miss America, one of the judges wrote a book where he called her Miss Piggy.  I spent a happy couple of minutes down the internet rabbit hole finding out that the judge in question was the late William Goldman.  He wrote The Princess Bride, among others.

I don't have cable, and have never seen Carlson as a host - only as a guest on network talk shows and obviously here.  She comes across the TV screen as somewhat unlikable, which if I understand it, is actually a plus on most news programs these days.

Goldman made a misstep calling her Miss Piggy (if she continues to repeat the story, she is only helping his estate by selling the book).  In the the book Goldman wrote (about the pageant generally, not specifically about Carlson, as she seemed to imply) his major critique of her was not her looks, but her religiosity, which he found off-putting. 

Edited by Mermaid Under · Reason: more rabbit hole to explore
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On 4/19/2021 at 11:32 AM, ShelleySue said:

Echoing what other people have said -- How did they only feature two people and not go into more detail?  I've seen shows with three people and it seems like more information was given.

I would be happy if they trimmed down the personal info about the featured guests in order to make more room for the historical stuff. I like some basic context, especially for guests I'm not familiar with, but I don't need to know their entire resume before diving into the good stuff.

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I caught up with the 2 most recent episodes last night.  I was oddly looking forward to Gretchen Carlson's segment, not because I especially like her (I don't...at all), but because I thought her family's Scandinavian background would have something in common with my own.  It didn't, other than alcoholism.  I actually found her story to be probably the most boring of all that I've seen.

Don Lemon, on the other hand, had a story that was sadly similar to many that have been featured, but he just seemed so much more authentic than Carlson that I couldn't help but be sucked in.  I wonder if I would have enjoyed his story as much if he had been paired with someone who wasn't essentially dead weight.

I'll echo everything already said about John Lithgow.  He is a delight to watch, whether playing a role or being himself!

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Henry Louis Gates, Jr. investigates the family histories of Broadway stars Audra McDonald and Mandy Patinkin, discovering ancestors whose struggles laid the groundwork for their success.

Upcoming show (tomorrow night in my area).   Mandy Patinkin has always been just slightly too much for me - talented, but oh so dramatic with every breath he takes.  If he doesn't cry a couple of times, I will be surprised. 

I have been amused by videos of Mandy and his wife in lockdown together over the past year, posted by one of his sons.  

 

Edited by Mermaid Under
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On 4/26/2021 at 9:25 AM, Mermaid Under said:

If he doesn't cry a couple of times, I will be surprised. 

Yes, he wept copiously at learning 20 members of his family had died in Treblinka.😢 I wasn't really sure if he never asked, or if he was lied to, because coming from that area it would be a miracle if someone of his background hadn't had relatives who died in a concentration camp. 

Audra's family story shed some light on Black Americans who moved west instead of north after slavery ended. Her great grandpa and 'Jericho' was interesting.

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11 minutes ago, sempervivum said:

Yes, he wept copiously at learning 20 members of his family had died in Treblinka.😢 I wasn't really sure if he never asked, or if he was lied to, because coming from that area it would be a miracle if someone of his background hadn't had relatives who died in a concentration camp. 

Audra's family story shed some light on Black Americans who moved west instead of north after slavery ended. Her great grandpa and 'Jericho' was interesting.

For a number of American Jews, the narrative was that their families got out well before the war when their grandparents or great grandparents emigrated around the turn of the century. I didn't find out until I was in my early 20s that while my grandfather and his siblings all left Lodz well before the war, his sisters who had left returned back to Lodz with their husbands and children in the mid 1930s and were all killed in the Holocaust. Up until that point, the narrative in my family was that maybe very distant cousins had been killed as part of the Shoah. I had the exact same reaction as Mandy did when I found out that story was absolutely false, and I had asked growing up as well many times.

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5 hours ago, sempervivum said:

Audra's family story shed some light on Black Americans who moved west instead of north after slavery ended. Her great grandpa and 'Jericho' was interesting.

Yes, from what I gathered, nothing remains of Jericho, but I wondered if maybe they knew where it was, geographically? It would be interesting to explore the area and see if there are any historical remnants.

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I really enjoyed this episode, but I expected to as I really admire both Audra MacDonald and Mandy Patinkin.  I wasn't put off by Patinkin's emotional responses as I already knew he was the sort of guy who is just out there with his emotions (as he himself said in this episode).  I did appreciate that MacDonald's story was unique to the series (so far) with the attention spent on the Great Migration west, and not North.

All that being said, I did think there was a strange element to this episode.  Patinkin's side was pretty heavy and MacDonald's was far less so.  It pretty much came down to:

to Mandy Patinkin: Over 20 of your relatives were gassed at Treblinka

to Audra MacDonald: Here's a picture of your grandfather with the Hamm's Beer lady.

This might have been a case where the paring was a disservice to both guests.  I get that they were paired together as they are both actors who have a very similar heft on Broadway, but their stories were just so different and neither really played much into their own vocational choices.

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18 hours ago, sempervivum said:

Yes, he wept copiously at learning 20 members of his family had died in Treblinka.😢 I wasn't really sure if he never asked, or if he was lied to, because coming from that area it would be a miracle if someone of his background hadn't had relatives who died in a concentration camp. 

It can be a taboo subject. I'll never know. 

For some reason this episode isn't online yet. Maybe I'm just being impatient.

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On 4/28/2021 at 1:35 PM, sempervivum said:

Yes, he wept copiously at learning 20 members of his family had died in Treblinka.😢 I wasn't really sure if he never asked, or if he was lied to, because coming from that area it would be a miracle if someone of his background hadn't had relatives who died in a concentration camp. 

I was finally able to watch this episode, and, yes, Mandy says clearly that he asked and was told no. So yes to all of the above. 
Similarly, my mother would get a dark look and say simply that "we are a small, close knit family." 
But one winter afternoon on a weekend when my father wasn't tirelessly working, a documentary came on the TV showing bodies of dead Holocaust victims being shoveled into mass graves, and my father said to me, "You need to see this."

Mandy's sobs were cathartic for me.

 

 

On 4/28/2021 at 11:35 PM, OtterMommy said:

I get that they were paired together as they are both actors who have a very similar heft on Broadway, but their stories were just so different and neither really played much into their own vocational choices.

Audra said she grew up in a home filled with music and musicians, and Mandy's relative sang in the synagogue with a deep baritone, which inspired him.
Also, it takes a tremendous amount of stamina to perform multiple times on Broadway, night after night and day after day, so it's not surprising that both came from ancestors who were survivors among many casualties. 

 

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On 4/26/2021 at 10:25 AM, Mermaid Under said:

Mandy Patinkin has always been just slightly too much for me - talented, but oh so dramatic with every breath he takes.  If he doesn't cry a couple of times, I will be surprised. 

I've heard vague stories about him being "difficult" on sets, and things clicked into place for me when he told the story of how his father was diagnosed with terminal cancer when Mandy was 18, and everyone in the family agreed to keep it a secret from his father (who died shortly afterwards). Mandy said that he always thought it was the wrong thing to do, and vowed to always be truthful after that. I can imagine that this attitude could translate into bluntness/rudeness later on, which may have caused friction with co-workers.

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On 4/28/2021 at 3:47 PM, iMonrey said:

Yes, from what I gathered, nothing remains of Jericho, but I wondered if maybe they knew where it was, geographically? It would be interesting to explore the area and see if there are any historical remnants.

As I remember, they showed a map of Fresno with Jericho indicated on it. So, you could find the land that it occupied, but there wouldn't be anything there that was there when it was Jericho. Again, I highly recommend Isabelle Wilkerson's The Warmth of Other Suns. It gives a very personal view of The Great Migration. Four people who migrated during different decades in the 20thC. are featured in great detail...often heartbreaking detail.

 

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Powerful episode tonight.  Both sections were enormously poignant.  I found myself wondering why Lewis Black and his brother didn't have children - that section seemed very sad.  It also bothered me that it didn't seem to occur to either he or Henry Louis Gates that his great-grandmother might not have wanted to be reunited with her husband, and might well have been pressured into living with him again. 

It was both amazing and poignant to hear about Roy Wood's family - on the one side, so successful and hard-working, but, on the other, against such incredible inhumanity and suffering.  Dr. Gates did a great job of sitting with him during that.  

Also, what a wonderful surprise cousin to discover.

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1 hour ago, SophiaD said:

Also, what a wonderful surprise cousin to discover.

I started crying.

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57 minutes ago, buttersister said:

I started crying.

I did, too!  Not to mention exclaiming his (the cousin's) name, over and over, LOUDLY.  Good thing my neighbors already know I am weird.

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I didn't know Roy Woods, Jr. and I barely know  Lewis Black.  What I do know about Lewis Black was that the few times I saw him on TV I didn't find his performance funny or even annoying if that was what he was trying for.   Maybe that is why I didn't find much in this episode interesting or new.   Only that Roy Woods, Jr was really Roy Woods III, and didn't seem quite sure what to do about that.   

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Yeah, didn't really know these 2 and didn't find them particularly interesting. How many Ashkenazi Jews from Russia has Dr. Gates featured? Seems like tons to me. So Lewis Black's  grandparents got back together, huh, shrug.

And didn't they have someone earlier this season who found a census listing with 'Africa' as the place of birth? Still, pretty amazing for a Black person to find a named ancestor from 1790.

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I love Lewis back and have seen him in concert 3 times and left with my face  hurting from laughter.   I always think he’s going to stroke out though. I know he’s been good to his parents but never heard about the anger from his mother, sad.  It was moving for me to see him get emotional. 
 

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10 hours ago, athousandclowns said:

I love Lewis back and have seen him in concert 3 times and left with my face  hurting from laughter.   I always think he’s going to stroke out though. I know he’s been good to his parents but never heard about the anger from his mother, sad.  It was moving for me to see him get emotional. 

I have always liked Lewis Black too and found the source of his anger being his mother interesting.  I somehow knew he had to have at least some roots in NYC which I also found interesting.  And I too found his reaction moving. 

I also thought a mention should have been made that a lot of women who otherwise today would end up divorced got back together with spouses sometimes years later in previous centuries because there wasn't much choice for them if they didn't want to end up destitute.  I have seen it happen in my own family history.

Also I didn't think enough was made about how rare it would have been that Roy Woods' grandmother was a college graduate.  For any woman born around 1914 that is amazing let alone a black woman.  He comes from some amazing people.  I didn't even know him before this but I appreciated his family history.

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Yikes, this one was kind of depressing. Maybe if you have one of these stories you should balance it out with lighter fare. Holocaust victims and slavery in one episode is a bit much for me.

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It also bothered me that it didn't seem to occur to either he or Henry Louis Gates that his great-grandmother might not have wanted to be reunited with her husband, and might well have been pressured into living with him again. 

That occurred to me as well. They sort of made light of the situation without really delving into it.

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I didn't know Roy Woods, Jr. and I barely know  Lewis Black.  What I do know about Lewis Black was that the few times I saw him on TV I didn't find his performance funny or even annoying if that was what he was trying for.

I always found Lewis Black hysterical on The Daily Show, but have been less impressed with his stand-up. Makes me wonder is someone else writes his Daily Show material.

As for Roy Woods Jr., he seems like a perfectly lovely man but I have always considered him a sub-par contributor to The Daily Show. The current lineup of "reporters" just pales in comparison to the glory days with Stephen Colbert, Steve Carell, John Oliver, Rob Riggle, Larry Wilmore, Sam Bee, etc. I sort of cringe when I catch the show now, it's such a shadow of its former self.

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6 minutes ago, iMonrey said:

As for Roy Woods Jr., he seems like a perfectly lovely man but I have always considered him a sub-par contributor to The Daily Show. The current lineup of "reporters" just pales in comparison to the glory days with Stephen Colbert, Steve Carell, John Oliver, Rob Riggle, Larry Wilmore, Sam Bee, etc. I sort of cringe when I catch the show now, it's such a shadow of its former self.

Roy Woods Jr. is at least funny sometimes on TDS.  Most of the other current "reporters" are never funny or informative except in their own minds.

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Instead of the thousandth Holocaust story and the thousandth slavery story, I wish they would look for people whose ancestors had different experiences.  I'm not making light of the stories they have shown, but more variety might keep the audience more interested.

I'm beginning to wonder if the guests make generous contributions to the research fund, or if there is some other reason the pool of guests seems less diverse than it might be.  I would be glad to see guests who are not celebrities; I'm only barely familiar with many of the guests anyway.

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12 hours ago, Driad said:

Instead of the thousandth Holocaust story and the thousandth slavery story, I wish they would look for people whose ancestors had different experiences.  I'm not making light of the stories they have shown, but more variety might keep the audience more interested.

I'm beginning to wonder if the guests make generous contributions to the research fund, or if there is some other reason the pool of guests seems less diverse than it might be.  I would be glad to see guests who are not celebrities; I'm only barely familiar with many of the guests anyway.

I think Henry tends to pick people whose cultural legacy includes struggle and oppression and therefore do not know much about their roots past one or two generations.  These are people who by themselves and even with online assistance wouldn't be able to uncover the stuff his professional genealogists can dig up.  It is often amazing to me how much they are able to find out about the Jewish and Black guests.  It must take a LOT of digging to turn up some of that stuff.  Plus he started out doing this primarily for other African Americans, so it is understandable to me that he would continue that focus.

I am not able to go very far back on my Jewish side.  I always knew who my great grandparents were, and that they immigrated here from London and before that Warsaw in the very early 1900s but until a couple of months ago when I found a tree on Ancestry.com that a distant cousin did that included THEIR parents' names I was clueless as to who they were.  I now know of more relatives that were living in NYC at the same time as I was in the 20th century that were descendants of those people that my family never knew.  I found a 2nd or 3rd cousin living on the Grand Concourse in the Bronx as recently as the 1970s that we never knew.  Although a lot of the family came over in the early 1900s I am sure some stayed behind that were killed in the Holocaust.  The family never talked about it but people didn't want to talk about it in "the old days" so I never considered it a possibility, but thanks to this show I now realize that the chances are good that this happened. Grim realization, but it's reality.

He has had people from other backgrounds on the show, most memorably some like Kevin Bacon that descend from the early settlers and the Mayflower.  I always enjoy those shows because I have similar genealogy on my father's other side.  My Sicilian side (my Mom's side) would like to see more guests of Sicilian descent because that hasn't been featured too much on this show.

I will admit that Henry tends to have a lot of what I would consider "elite" stars on his show.   I think he picks and chooses based on his own preferences so the stars he picks reflect his interests.

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5 hours ago, Yeah No said:

think Henry tends to pick people whose cultural legacy includes struggle and oppression and therefore do not know much about their roots past one or two generations.  These are people who by themselves and even with online assistance wouldn't be able to uncover the stuff his professional genealogists can dig up.  It is often amazing to me how much they are able to find out about the Jewish and Black guests.  It must take a LOT of digging to turn up some of that stuff.  Plus he started out doing this primarily for other African Americans, so it is understandable to me that he would continue that focus

Exactly! It’s actually not easy to find the family histories of Jews before the Holocaust and black people during slavery so for the show to be able to trace that out is amazing! 

I also don’t find these stories sad because of the end results. Ron Wood Jr (IIi) is still living his best life and hugging his son but knowing the history of his family. Lewis Black will eventually do Mark Maron and talk more in depth about his life and Mark will have more  to talk to him about other than if he met Lorne Michaels!

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19 hours ago, Driad said:

Instead of the thousandth Holocaust story and the thousandth slavery story, I wish they would look for people whose ancestors had different experiences.  I'm not making light of the stories they have shown, but more variety might keep the audience more interested.

They've recently done shows with John Lithgow (7 ancestors came over on the Mayflower), and Gretchen Carlson, with Swedish ancestry.  It's not all doom and gloom.

I think Ron Wood is the second person to find his ancestor who came from Africa.  The first was Questlove who had folks come on the really late slave ship Clotilda that arrived just before the start of the Civil War.

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On 5/6/2021 at 6:50 PM, iMonrey said:
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It also bothered me that it didn't seem to occur to either he or Henry Louis Gates that his great-grandmother might not have wanted to be reunited with her husband, and might well have been pressured into living with him again. 

That occurred to me as well. They sort of made light of the situation without really delving into it.

As someone who was divorced 30 years ago with 3 kids, I thought the tone they took was appropriate. It's possible that after Lewis Black's great(?) grandma left, and her husband had to go to great lengths to reunite with her, that they both had more leverage in negotiating the relationship amicably. On the other hand, maybe they lived the rest of their lives in angry silence because it was slightly better economically than living apart. We can't know.

 

 

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I liked finding out where the "Black" name came from. I was one of those who assumed it was a translation of Schwartz.

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On 5/6/2021 at 7:24 PM, Driad said:

I would be glad to see guests who are not celebrities; I'm only barely familiar with many of the guests anyway.

PBS used to have a genealogy show for non-celebrities. It ran for 3 seasons starting in 2013 and was called Genealogy Roadshow. I really enjoyed it and was disappointed that it wasn't renewed. 

I found myself recently wondering - after seeing yet another guest weeping over the sufferings of their ancestors - how would they feel if it were revealed to them that they had a distant relative in dire straights that was still alive? What if - rather than having a great-great uncle who was a prisoner of war during the Civil War - it was their meth addicted 5th cousin, Louie, currently living under a bridge? Well that would be awkward. Might make it a little harder to find guests for the show. 

Sometimes this show seems to emphasize that most human suffering is relegated to the past. Maybe it's because the guests are all well-heeled celebrities. Plus, much like their ancestors, most of the current guest aren't going to spill the beans about present day family issues. When it's current news - it's tawdry gossip. When it's in the past - it's fascinating history. And I'm guessing that most viewers prefer stories about upward mobility. 

Which isn't to say I'm not enjoying the show. And I did find the last episode with Lewis Black and Ron Wood to be very moving. But some of the guests' reactions bring out the curmudgeon in me.

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35 minutes ago, Mannahatta said:

…I found myself recently wondering - after seeing yet another guest weeping over the sufferings of their ancestors - how would they feel if it were revealed to them that they had a distant relative in dire straights that was still alive? What if - rather than having a great-great uncle who was a prisoner of war during the Civil War - it was their meth addicted 5th cousin, Louie, currently living under a bridge? Well that would be awkward. Might make it a little harder to find guests for the show. 

Sometimes this show seems to emphasize that most human suffering is relegated to the past. Maybe it's because the guests are all well-heeled celebrities. Plus, much like their ancestors, most of the current guest aren't going to spill the beans about present day family issues. When it's current news - it's tawdry gossip. When it's in the past - it's fascinating history. And I'm guessing that most viewers prefer stories about upward mobility. 

Which isn't to say I'm not enjoying the show. And I did find the last episode with Lewis Black and Ron Wood to be very moving. But some of the guests' reactions bring out the curmudgeon in me.

I suppose an advantage(?) of having celebrity guests is that any “meth addicted 5th cousin” has likely already been paid off and is no longer “living under a bridge.”

There was someone on the show (mentioned upthread) who did meet present day “family” heretofore unknown owing to a brief romance between a recently deceased parent and a foreign exchange student. The previously unknown family seemed happy to meet a rich and famous family member.
However, a very similar discovery by my daughter’s friend’s family via Ancestry gene data, instead just caused a lot of anguish.
Celebrities have a lot of social capital to spend, as well as the financial. 

Your comments don’t seem curmudgeonly to me, @Mannahatta🙂

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