With the success of Who Do You Think You Are? on NBC, it’s no surprise that PBS’s 10-part series Finding Your Roots has found an audience too — there has always been a basic drive to discover who we are and where we come from. This is the twelfth series from Henry Louis Gates Jr., the Alphonse Fletcher University professor at Harvard University and director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African-American Research.
Filmed on location across the United States, the series premiered March 25 and will continue through May 20. The network advises people to check local listings, but the show airs nationally at 8 p.m. on PBS.
One of the most fascinating aspects of the show is its bigger picture approach to individuals. Since the beginning of the series, Professor Gates has said that ancestry and history helps us find new ways to “get into the DNA of American culture.”
In each hour-long episode, he takes viewers along for the journey with one celebrity pair bound together by an intimate, sometimes hidden link. In order to do this, the show treks through layers of ancestral history and uncovers secrets and surprises. In some cases, it has led to life-altering discoveries.
The People Behind The 10-Part PBS Series.
Professsor Gates doesn’t do all the work alone. He works closely with leading U.S. genealogists (including the staff of the New England Genealogical Historical Society and Johni Cerny, co-author of the acclaimed The Source: Guidebook for American Genealogy) and ancestry experts from around the world. They conduct most of their research combing through family stories to discover unknown histories and relatives that the guests never knew existed.
When paper trails end for each story, the team turns to top geneticists and DNA diagnosticians (such as through genetic testing) to analyze each participant’s genetic code. This helps them trace bloodlines and occasionally debunk long-held notions and beliefs.
The show frequently taps into larger issues, such as East Indians in the Caribbean, family migration from 1860-1960, and how even census takers would sometimes change information deemed not politically correct for the times. You can learn more about the show on the PBS dedicated page: Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is a production of Kunhardt McGee Productions, Inkwell Films and WNET in association with Ark Media. WNET is the parent company of THIRTEEN and WLIW21, New York’s public television stations and operator of NJTV. For nearly 50 years, WNET has been producing and broadcasting national and local documentaries and other programs for the New York community.