Finding Your Roots
|Finding Your Roots
with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
Title card from the second season
|Written by||Henry Louis Gates, Jr.|
|Directed by||John Maggio
|Presented by||Henry Louis Gates, Jr.|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of series||2|
|No. of episodes||20|
|Executive producer(s)||Henry Louis Gates, Jr.|
Leslie Asako Gladsjo
|Running time||51-53 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Kunhardt McGee Productions
|Original release||March 25, 2012– present|
|Preceded by||Faces of America|
Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is a Public Broadcasting Service public television series hosted by Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. The first season originally aired on PBS from March 25 to May 20 of 2012. It was broadcast in the 8–9 p.m time slot (EDT). The series returned for a second season on September 23, 2014. Season two finished airing on November 25, 2014.
The series uses traditional genealogical research and genetics to find the family history of famous Americans. Genetic techniques include Y-chromosome DNA, mitochondrial DNA, and autosomal DNA analyses to infer both ancient and recent genetic relationships. Among other genealogical backgrounds, the series investigates the family histories of celebrity guests with African American, Asian American, Chinese American, Greek American, Indian American, Irish American, Italian American, Jewish American, and Latin American heritage.
Each celebrity guest is given a book of life, which contains all of the information discovered about the guest's genealogy by researchers. Included in or with the book are comprehensive genetic results, a family tree that is as complete as paper research allows, copies of historical records used to assemble each tree, and photos of newly found family members. In some episodes, particularly episodes in which original DNA research must be used to establish a past ancestor's parental link, guests are reunited with long-lost relatives. However, in most episodes, each guest is predominately shown seated opposite Gates as he guides them through their book of life. To show correlations between the guests family stories, each episode cuts back and forth between two or three guest stories. To draw further correlations Gates uses examples from his own genealogy quite frequently. Examples of this would be a grandmother of his' having multiple children with a white man whose name she never revealed, as well as Gates' membership into the Sons of the American Revolution.
In addition to celebrity guests, everyday people are sometimes featured in an episode to create a third or forth story line. Usually the non-celebrity guests are a group of peers. An example of this would be the episode in which Gates has his friends at his local barbershop take a DNA test to determine their ethnic makeup, each friend betting on their percentages of African, European, and Native American genetic heritage. Another episode uses a similar guessing game with students at a local school. Singular secondary guests include Robert Downey, Sr. and Margarett Cooper, the latter being a friend of Gates'.
The series has seen two past incarnations on PBS, both of which were hosted by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. In 2006 and 2008 the series African American Lives aired. Both seasons of the series consisted of a season-long story line as well as an all African American cast. In 2010 Faces of America aired. Though it continued to use the season-long plot from the prior installment, it was the first installment hosted by Gates to include Americans of all ethnic and racial backgrounds. Starting with Finding Your Roots in 2012, the series redirected from a season-long plot, to having plots extending only within a single episode. In doing so it has allowed the series to extend its number of episodes each season to ten, opposed to the prior four episodes a season.
|First aired||Last aired|
|1||10||March 25, 2012||May 20, 2012|
|2||10||September 23, 2014||November 25, 2014|
Season 1 (2012)
|Title||Original air date|
|1||1||"Branford Marsalis and Harry Connick, Jr."||March 25, 2012|
|Branford Marsalis and Harry Connick, Jr., fellow jazz musicians, grew up together in New Orleans.|
|2||2||"John Lewis and Cory Booker"||March 25, 2012|
|Georgia Congressman John Lewis and then Newark Mayor Cory Booker meet each other before they explore their family heritages.|
|3||3||"Barbara Walters and Geoffrey Canada"||April 1, 2012|
|Barbara Walters and Geoffrey Canada both discover their families' original surnames in the episode.|
|4||4||"Kyra Sedgwick and Kevin Bacon"||April 8, 2012|
|Married couple Kyra Sedgwick and Kevin Bacon discover they share distant ancestry.|
|5||5||"Rick Warren, Angela Buchdahl and Yasir Qadhi"||April 15, 2012|
|All three guests, Rick Warren, Angela Warnick Buchdahl, and Abu Ammaar Yasir Qadhi, are religious leaders in their respective faiths.|
|6||6||"Robert Downey, Jr. and Maggie Gyllenhaal"||April 22, 2012|
|Robert Downey, Jr. and Maggie Gyllenhaal both descend from European-American immigrants. Robert's father, Robert Downey, Sr., acts as the episode's unofficial third guest, sitting with Henry as he reads his book of life.|
|7||7||"Samuel L. Jackson, Condoleezza Rice and Ruth Simmons"||April 29, 2012|
|Samuel L. Jackson, Condoleezza Rice, and Ruth Simmons trace their genealogical backgrounds into slavery, and with the help of DNA analysis, back to Africa.|
|8||8||"Martha Stewart, Margaret Cho and Sanjay Gupta"||May 6, 2012|
|Martha Stewart, Margaret Cho, and Sanjay Gupta are all the offspring of first or second generation immigrants.|
|9||9||"John Legend and Wanda Sykes"||May 13, 2012|
|John Legend and Wanda Sykes explore their rich and extensive free negro heritages. Margarett Cooper also makes an appearance in the episode, appearing only a year before her death in 2013. In keeping with the theme of the episode, Cooper seeks help from Gates to answer long-held questions about her free heritage.|
|10||10||"Michelle Rodriguez, Adrian Grenier and Linda Chavez"||May 20, 2012|
|In this episode Michelle Rodriguez, Adrian Grenier, and Linda Chavez explore their Hispanic roots.|
Season 2 (2014)
|Title||Original air date|
|11||1||"In Search of our Fathers"||September 23, 2014|
|Celebrity guests: Stephen King, Gloria Reuben, and Courtney B. Vance|
|12||2||"Born Champions"||September 30, 2014|
|Celebrity guests: Derek Jeter, Billie Jean King, and Rebecca Lobo|
|13||3||"Our American Storytellers"||October 7, 2014|
|Celebrity guests: Ken Burns, Anderson Cooper, and Anna Deavere Smith|
|14||4||"Roots of Freedom"||October 14, 2014|
|Celebrity guests: Ben Affleck, Khandi Alexander, and Benjamin Jealous|
|15||5||"The Melting Pot"||October 21, 2014|
|Celebrity guests: Tom Colicchio, Aarón Sánchez, and Ming Tsai|
|16||6||"We Come From People"||October 28, 2014|
|Celebrity guests: Angela Bassett, Valerie Jarrett, and Nas|
|17||7||"Our People, Our Traditions"||November 4, 2014|
|Celebrity guests: Alan Dershowitz, Carole King, and Tony Kushner|
|18||8||"The British Invasion"||November 11, 2014|
|Celebrity guests: Deepak Chopra, Sally Field, and Sting|
|19||9||"Ancient Roots"||November 18, 2014|
|Celebrity guests: Tina Fey, George Stephanopoulos, and David Sedaris|
|20||10||"Decoding Our Past Through DNA"||November 25, 2014|
|Celebrity guests: Jessica Alba and Governor Deval Patrick (also appearing are Anderson Cooper, Valerie Jarrett, and more). Gates' relationship to Wilmore Mail is described.|
- "Finding Your Roots - About". PBS. Retrieved September 16, 2014.
- "Finding Your Roots - Episodes". PBS. Retrieved November 22, 2014.
- Allen, Nick (April 17, 2015). "Ben Affleck's slave-owning ancestor 'censored' from genealogy show". The Telegraph. Retrieved May 26, 2015.
- Kirell, Andrew (April 18, 2015). "Ben Affleck Demanded PBS Suppress His Slave-Owning Ancestry". Mediaite. Retrieved May 26, 2015.
- Koblin, John (June 24, 2015). "Citing Ben Affleck's 'Improper Influence,' PBS Suspends 'Finding Your Roots'". The New York Times. Retrieved June 25, 2015.
- Leemarch, Felicia R. (March 19, 2012). "Family Tree's Startling Roots". The New York Times.
- "Margarett Cooper Obituary". Legacy.com. September 20, 2013. Retrieved November 23, 2014.