Thursday, September 25, 2014

Finding Your Roots Review: In Search of Our Fathers

The first episode of the second season of Finding Your Roots ran on Tuesday, September 23 at 8 p.m. on PBS. Tuesdays are my late night at work and I don't get home until well after the broadcast. Sadness. BUT Cousin Mary gave me a heads up that PBS hosts the full episodes online and so I was able to watch it last night. Season 2 Episode 1 (S2E1) is available at

The guests on this episode included author Stephen King, actor Courtney B. Vance, and Canadian singer-actress Gloria Reuben. I did not know Gloria Reuben at all her genealogy was fascinating...but I'll get to that.

I really like this program as much as Who Do You Thing You Are? and maybe even more. The stories are really filled with world history and present excellent genealogy research skills. There is no facade that these celebrities conducted the research on their own. They did not. Although, it does make it seem like Louis Henry Gates, Jr. did all the research. To his credit though, he does say "we" an awful lot and does acknowledge other genealogist doing research for the program but not by their names.

Each episode will explore the ancestry of three celebrities. Each guest will walk away with a "Book of Life" and really, so so much more. You could really see how strongly each of these guest were moved by the ancestry revealed to them. It was really quite beautiful.

This week all three guests were interested in learning more about their fathers. Stephen King’s father abandoned Stephen and his mother when Stephen was just two. Courtney Vance’s father did not know his biological parents. Gloria Reuben’s father was 78 years old when she was born and died when she was very young.

One of the most amazing revelations, in my opinion, was the photo they found of Stephen King's father whom he had never seen. It wasn't just that Stephen hadn't see THAT photo, he never saw any photo of his father before that moment. That was powerful. 

In the research for Courtney Vance I feel the most powerful revelation came with the results of a DNA test. Courtney's father knew nothing of his biological parents. A scandal found through newspapers articles suggested that a specific Reverend in the Chicago community in which Courtney's biological grandmother could have been the father of Courtney's father. Present day DNA testing proved that the Reverend was not the father and yielded a Y-DNA match to another man which, if that man has no adoption in his patrilineal line, would give Courtney  a family surname for his father's lineage.

And in the case of Gloria Reuben, the most moving discovery, and as Gates expressed the most rare of findings, was the name and age of the woman who was Gloria's slave ancestor taken from Africa and brought to Jamaica.

Next week’s episode will feature tennis star Billie Jean King, New York Yankees Derek Jeter, and basketball player Rebecca Lobo.

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