Tracing back one’s family roots and history is not necessarily a top priority for many Americans today. The average American assumes their race and ethnicity by looking in the mirror at the color of his/her skin. Most people ask their parents and grandparents about their ancestry and are satisfied with the basic answers they hear from them, although family stories can likely become somewhat inaccurate as they get passed down over time.
In the interview between Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and PR.com
‘s Allison Kugel, you learn that finding out about your roots and ancestry is very important in understanding who you are and where you come from. Most people would be pleasantly surprised that they can trace their family roots all the way back to the early centuries, yet this varies from family to family and is dependent upon preserved documentation.
Robert Downey, Jr. was able to trace his ancestors back to the fourteenth century on Henry Louis Gates, Jr. show, Finding Your Roots. There is a reason that Finding Your Roots is averaging 2.5 million viewers. It is captivating to watch other people on the show discover that they are a mix of different races or that their families originally were a different religion.
Perhaps if more people discovered their roots they would be more tolerable of other religions and races; there might be a good chance that it is in their blood as well. For example, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. explains in the PR.com
interview that many people have a “hidden” Jewish bloodline in their ancestry because of the 1492 expulsion of the Jews from Spain. Gates comments, “If you didn’t want to die and you were Jewish you had to be Catholic. If you didn’t really want to be Catholic, you had to pretend to be Catholic.” This happened to be the case for one of Gate’s guests on the PBS show, Linda Chavez.
It is not only important to find out where your ancestors originated from or what religion and race they were, but also to look into the stories that you find when tracing back your own ancestry. Actor, Adrian Grenier, learned that his fourth great grandfather, a man named Jose Ramirez, was captured by the Comanches and grew up around the Comanches Indians on Finding Your Roots.
Henry Louis Gates, Jr. explains in this interview with Allison Kugel, “My series, Finding Your Roots, shows that, 1. We’re all immigrants, and 2. We are all cousins. Genetically, we are all cousins.”
The average person who wants to find out about their own ancestry can go to archives.com
and pay a subscription fee, or use DNA companies such as the ones shown on Finding Your Roots
including 23andMe, Family Tree DNA, and AfricanAncestry.com
. Finding and learning about your roots and family history, however, is priceless.