PBS’ ‘Finding Your Roots’ Announces Political Leaders to be Future Celebrity Guests

Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr., hopes this season of his popular PBS television series “Finding Your Roots” helps a divided U.S. see how all Americans have unique family links and how those family histories tell the story of the country.

Now in its fifth season, the series takes advantage of new advancements in genealogy and genetics to look into the history of American celebrities. In upcoming episodes Gates and his team investigate the pasts of diverse subjects like former U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii and “Game of Thrones” author George R. R. Martin.

Gates said investigators were able to locate some of Ryan’s ancestors in Germany back to 1531. They also found that the former Republican leader is a descendant of Ashkenazi Jews, based on his DNA.

You can read the full Associated Press story in an article by Russell Contreras at: http://bit.ly/2RSXtXr.


It’s about time that we learn something about the people who make our laws and why they think the way they do and just where they come from. Genes have a lot to do with it.


Is someone suggesting that politicians have fathers?


I actually spent much of the Ryan/Rubio/Gabbard episode getting irritated at the TV. Politicians are always so amazed that these records exist and so excited by what they learn, yet they’re the same ones who regularly propose cutting NARA, LOC, and IMLS funding. Maybe if enough Congresspeople go on the show, they’ll learn how important preservation is and do more to help those efforts, not harm them.

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After watching a couple of these shows I lost interest quickly. I don’t much care about celebrities ancestry’s. Now Louis Gates is doing politicians? I could care even less. I would be more interested in him doing ordinary folks, especially those with brick walls.


    I don’t mind watching the celebrity shows. I do agree I would rather watch Shows about regular people. A show that would help people break their brick walls would be great. Henry’s Show “Railroad Ties” was very good. I watched it on YouTube.


The first I ever heard of a city mayor named Corey Booker was on this program. I was impressed then, and I’m STILL impressed.
Somehow, I will out of loyalty to the program watch the Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio episodes — but I will hold my nose.


I think this is a wonderful idea. Might open eyes to the immigration problem. Where would we be if our ancestors hadn’t been immigrants or even stowaways as my g-grandfather was to find a better life especially if they weren’t the first-born son and had no opportunity for success in the “old country”.


I love Henry Louis Gates, Jr., but it did give me pause that he chose Ryan and Rubio.

I wonder if either of these guys watches his show.

I had to steel myself to watch this show, as I have strong negative feelings toward both of his guests. I will confess, it did give me a certain amount of pleasure to see what Ryan’s DNA revealed, and what was uncovered in Rubio’s past.

If there is a slave owner in your background, Gates will find him. Rubio said he was afraid of that. What was possibly worse was stripping Rubio of his pride in being the first in his family to be a lawyer. Not only did Gates find one early in his family history – he found one who had incredible courage – something Rubio lacks. Fair to say, Gates took a jab at Rubio’s pride using the findings from his research as his weapon.

Maybe it was just me, but Ryan seemed somewhat uncomfortable in his interactions with Gates. He had his hands locked in front of him and frequently kept his head down in his interactions with him rather than looking up. He is one of the most conservative men in our country so I’m wondering how the discovery that he is part Ashkenazi Jew fits with the concept of himself.

All-in-all, I have to tip my hat to Professor Gates. He does it again!

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The George R.R. Martin episode has already been shown. The Andy Samberg episode was heart-warming. He talked about it on the Today Show- how it had made such a difference in his and his mother’s lives. That his mother was off-camera in a nearby room and they had to stop taping because she was in tears.


For those of us who are avid fans of genealogy these shows are wonderful! It’s not about who is chosen or not chosen to tell their story….it’s that the story is told! That’s why we do it and watch it!

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Marianne Ellis Bradley February 14, 2019 at 5:21 pm

As an amateur genealogist of over 50 years, I have certainly been enjoying all of the various genealogy shows for many years. On Finding Your Roots, it seems that Dr. Gates prides himself in finding slaves in the background of his African American guests and treating it as big, startling news. I sometimes feel he is trying to give the white people a guilt complex. We all know that slavery existed in this country for over two centuries and also existed in various parts of the world for many centuries. But those of us who are descended from slave owners cannot undo the past, nor does it mean we condone the practice of our forefathers. I very much enjoyed the story of Michael Strahan’s slave ancestors becoming successful business owners with a proud history, and I know the same applies to many others. And it is heartwarming that Dr. Gates and his team are able to trace the African American ancestry and present it to their descendants, who would not have had the knowledge to do it, due to the poor record keeping of the time for the slaves and their families. I am finding it very interesting that many of us, me included, are uncovering and connecting with African American cousins through DNA. It should be a good start to making us appreciate and understand humanity!.

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    “I would be more interested in him doing ordinary folks, especially those with brick walls.” I enthusiastically endorse this suggestion. Why doesn’t this type of coverage ever happen?


    “On Finding Your Roots, it seems that Dr. Gates prides himself in finding slaves in the background of his African American guests and treating it as big, startling news. I sometimes feel he is trying to give the white people a guilt complex.”
    I see racism in some of Gates’ comments.


This episode is not being aired in Portland, Oregon. It was listed on the Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) website schedule and my TV schedule, but instead a repeat from 2016 was shown. Then the next day the OPB website was updated as skipping this episode.


The Associated Press story says, “Gates said investigators were able to locate some of Ryan’s ancestors in Germany back to 1531.” However, FYR showed a Hutter baptism record dated 1757 and mentioned nothing of the year 1531 in the program. The Ast and Waldmünchen baptism records in Bavaria do not go as far back as the 1500s, so I’m wondering if “1531” is a typo. I’m aware that producers of FYR had access to a genealogy DVD with pedigrees of many families researched by Georg Ederer of Waldmünchen. Ederer’s work (written in 1993) containing Hutter pedigrees are what I believe led the FYR people to Hochabrunn. Ederer was not given credit for finding the 1757 baptism record of Adam Hutter, a weaver at house #2 in Hochabrunn. Ederer’s pedigree shows Joseph Hutter married Barbara Pronold in 1869, but didn’t continue further with their children and descendants leading to Paul Ryan.


The comment “I wish they would do a show on ordinary people” keeps appearing on every one of the genealogy shows whether FYR or WDYTYA. I wonder how many people would watch if they did a show on Joe Blow? These shows still have to pay the bills.


Genealogy Roadshow on PBS showed regular people. It hasn’t had any new seasons in a few years, as far as I know.


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