Genealogy has enjoyed a renaissance on reality shows such as NBC's "Who Do You Think You Are?" and that can be attributed in large part to Harvard scholar Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr., whose PBS specials including "African American Lives" and "Faces of America" helped shed a light on the fascinating ethnic backgrounds of many different people.
This passion that Gates has to, as he tells Zap2it, "get into the DNA of American culture" now continues on a larger scale in the new 10-part PBS series "Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates, Jr.," which airs Sundays beginning March 25 (check local listings).
It wasn't until DNA technology really broke through in the early 2000s that Gates could really dive into his research. Originally working with African-American history, Gates has expanded his testing into a wide range of cultures and people, and in this series he again teams up with a number of notable personalities to research their histories. Among the highlights are Harry Connick Jr., whose fifth great-grandfather turns out to have been a privateer fighting in the American Revolution ("Harry is in the process, I think, of joining the Sons of the American Revolution because of that," says Gates); Branford Marsalis ("Branford actually descends from a white man who was a German ... who shows up in New Orleans in 1851, and he fathers a child with ... a free black woman named Mertay Valentine"); and married couple Kyra Sedgwick and Kevin Bacon ("They are indeed distant cousins. So talk about six degrees of separation, right?").
Ultimately, Gates hopes "Finding Your Roots" shows that we all aren't really separated by very much in the end.
"I want ... Americans (to) realize how united we are as a people. ... There's so much animosity ... and one of the things that I want the series to do is to show that, deep down, we are all Americans. We've been sleeping together from the very beginning of the country."
Photo/Video credit: PBS
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