Decoding Our Past Through DNA

Full Episode

Deval Patrick is the first African-American governor of Massachusetts and Jessica Alba is an actress who proudly embraces her Mexican-American heritage. However, cutting-edge DNA analysis reveals that their family trees contain a far more diverse range of cultures and races. DNA is also used to delve deeper into the families of other guests in the series, including Valerie Jarrett and Henry Louis Gates Jr.

Stream this exciting full episode, premiering November 25th at 8PM EST (check local listings).

Episode Transcript Print

Finding Your Roots
Ep 210 “Decoding Our Past”
Jessica Alba / Deval Patrick / Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

GATES: I’M HENRY LOUIS GATES, JR. WELCOME TO FINDING YOUR ROOTS.

IN A COUNTRY AS DIVERSE AS OURS, IT’S LITTLE WONDER THAT WE’RE FASCINATED BY RACE AND IDENTITY.

IN THIS EPISODE, I WANT TO SEE HOW CUTTING-EDGE GENETIC ANALYSIS CAN HELP ANSWER THE QUESTION: “WHAT MAKES-US WHO WE ARE?”

IS IT THE COLOR OF OUR SKIN?

IS IT WHERE OUR ANCESTORS CAME FROM?

OR IS IT OUR PERSONAL EXPERIENCES?…

Footage of Skip out in the world…or Skip reacting to some info from CeCe

GATES: Oh look at that!

WE’RE GOING TO LOOK FOR ANSWERS TO THAT QUESTION IN THE GENETIC BRANCHES OF MY OWN FAMILY TREE.

Footage of Skip with guests from across the season

AS WELL AS IN THE GENETIC BRANCHES OF THE MANY PEOPLE I’VE INTERVIEWED FOR THIS SERIES.

TSAI: You’re molded by your family, and especially your mom and dad.

NAS: It all starts with DNA.

KING: Each generation influences the next generation. Each person in your life influences you.

KIING: In the end your heredity trumps all nurture.

STING: I behave, I think the way I do because of many many factors. My ancestors are one of them.

DERSHOWTIZ: For me, it’s clearly my DNA.

I’M ALSO GOING TO TRACE THE ROOTS OF TWO NEW GUESTS: ACTOR JESSICA ALBA AND Massachusetts GOVERNOR DEVAL PATRICK—TO HELP US UNDERSTAND HOW DNA MAKES US WHO WE ARE.

ALBA: My mom used to always call me a mutt. Just kind of like a mix of everything and it’s all confusing.

PATRICK: It’s about America. You know, we have spent so much of our history trying to harden what turns out to be quite blurred lines.

BY DECODING OUR DNA AND REVEALING THE DIVERSITY THAT’S HIDDEN IN THE BRANCHES OF OUR FAMILY TREES, WE’LL DISCOVER JUST HOW “BLURRED” THE LINES THAT DIVIDE US TRULY ARE.

TITLE SEQUENCE

Skip wandering through Harvard Yard

I TEACH AFRICAN AND AFRICAN AMERICAN STUDIES AT HARVARD… TO ANYONE WHO GLANCES AT MY FACE I’M OBVIOUSLY a black man – AND I HAVE PROUDLY IDENTIFIED AS such MY ENTIRE LIFE.

BUT several years ago WHEN I TOOK A DNA TEST, I discovered THAT my genes TOLD A MUCH MORE COMPLICATED STORY: SLIGHTLY MORE THAN HALF OF MY ANCESTORS OVER THE LAST 500 YEARS WEREN’T BLACK AT ALL, THEY CAME FROM EUROPE!

B-roll from interviews

THAT STARTINGLY BIT OF INFORMATION IS ONE OF THE REASONS THAT I STARTED MAKING THIS PROGRAM. TRAVELING THE COUNTRY TO INTERVIEW PEOPLE ABOUT THEIR OWN ROOTS.

I’M ALWAYS FASCINATED TO LEARN HOW EACH GUEST DESCRIBES HIS OR HER OWN IDENTITY. IN FACT, IT’S THE VERY FIRST QUESTION I ASK THEM.

CHOPRA: I’m proud to be an Indian.

TSAI: I’m Chinese American.

ALEXANDER: Oh I’m a Black woman. I like being Black.

STING: I am British and I’m proud to be British.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I’m as Greek as it gets. (Laughs)

GATES: (Laughs)

JESSICA ALBA is THE STAR OF BLOCKBUSTERS LIKE THE FANTASTIC FOUR AND THE SIN CITY SERIES.

Alba and Skip walking around

HER OFF SCREEN IDENTITY, HOWEVER, IS MUCH MORE COMPLEX. She’s always believed that HER FAthER’S ROOTS LEAD BACK TO SPAIN THROUGH MEXICO; ANd HER MOTHER’s ROOTS SOMEWHERE IN EUROPE.

BUT WHEN I ASKED HER “WHO ARE YOUR PEOPLE?”…HER ANSWER WAS SIMPLE.

ALBA: I for sure identify more with Mexican-American.

Though Jessica VIEWS HERSELF FIRST AND FORE MOST as Mexican-AMERICAN our DNA analysiS SHOWs THAT HER ANCESTRY IS ACTUALLY FAR MORE DIVERSE THAN SHE COULD EVER IMAGINE.

GATES: You are, as you can see there, 33.5 percent British, 5.1 percent French-German, 3.9 percent Scandinavian, 17.3 percent Iberian…that’s the Spanish colonial element.

ALBA: Oh, wow.

GATES: And 1.4 percent Italian.

GATES: And when you walked in here, you knew that your family had said that you were French, of French descent.

ALBA: My mom did, but I thought she was just trying to be fancy. (Laughs)

GATES: (Laughs) You have one of the most diverse ancestral breakdowns that we’ve ever seen in this series.

In jessica’s case family history trumped genetics…

JESSICA AND HER FATHER MARK ALBA SHOWED ME PHOTOS OF THE TIGHTLY-KNIT MEXICAN IMMIGRANT COMMUNITY IN CLAREMONT, CALIFORNIA WHERE SHE WAS RAISED.

Sound-up Mark Alba talking about relatives in photos

GATES: Tell me about this.

MARK ALBA: Oh my dad…uhm…My dad actually was a very good singer. My dad ended up being a classical guitarist.

JESSICA’S POWERFUL CONNECTION TO HER MEXICAN ROOTS WAS FORGED HERE. SURROUNDED BY HER FATHER’S FAMILY. SHE told me that ONE FAMILY STORY IN PARTICULAR her CEMENTED THIS BOND.

IT STARTS WITH HER GREAT GRANDFATHER, A MAN NAMED DANIEL MARTINEZ. DANIEL WAS BORN IN MEXICO, AND MOVED TO LOS ANGELES WHERE HE MANAGED TO SAVE ENOUGH MONEY TO OPEN HIS OWN MEAT MARKET.

BUT, IN THE 1920’s, DANIEL LOST HIS BUSINESS. THE FAMILY WAS FORCED TO WORK AS MIGRANT FARMERS–ENTERING A WORLD IN WHICH THEIR ETHNIC IDENTITY WAS USED TO VILIFY THEM

ALBA: My grandfather said that there were water fountains and bathrooms and, you know, basically anything that was open to the public that was segregated. There were Mexican schools and schools for white kids and my grandmother, half of her siblings were fair skinned and had light eyes and light hair, blonde hair and red hair so they got to the white schools and then the darker skinned um siblings had to go to the Mexican schools.

Photos Mexican immigrant communities during the depression

JESSICA HAS HEARD PAINFUL STORIES ALL HER LIFE ABOUT THE PREJUDICE HER FAMILY EXPERIENCED.

BUT SHE HAD NO IDEA HOW DETERMINED HER GREAT GRANDFATHER DANIEL WAS TO FIGHT BACK.

HE DIDN’T WANT HIS DARKER SKINNED CHILDREN TO START LIFE AT A DISADVANTAGE. SO DANIEL BANDED TOGETHER WITH OTHER MEXICAN AMERICAN FAMILIES TO OPEN A SCHOOL OF THEIR OWN.

ALBA: It’s a school in Claremont. A Mexican school in Claremont.

GATES: Yes, that’s right. Have you ever heard of this school?

ALBA: No.

GATES: Well your family played a key role in the creation of that school.

ALBA: Really? That’s so cool.

GATES: Around 1927 your great-grandfather Daniel and some other arbelvarity community members founded the East Barrio School.

ALBA: Oh I didn’t know that.

GATES: They practiced reading and writing Spanish and they even studied Mexican history.

ALBA: Oh wow, so they didn’t lose touch with their roots.

GATES: Do you think that your great-grandfather founding the El Barrio School was a way of fighting back against the back of the bus treatment that he was receiving?

ALBA: Absolutely yeah. And I think also, um, wanting to still, you know, instill pride in the children about who they are and where they came from. And not feel shame. Um which is, you know, what you feel, I’m sure, when you’re treated that way.

Skip and Patrick walking around governor’s office.

MY NEXT GUEST, MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR DEVAL PATRICK, HAS ALSO BEEN PROFOUNDLY SHAPED BY HIS ANCESTORS’ RACIAL IDENTITY.

HE DEFIED THE STATUS QUO OF MASSACHUSSETTS POLITICS, WHEN HE BECAME THE STATE’S FIRST AFRICAN AMERICAN GOVERNOR.

PATRICK: I never really doubted that people were ready for a black governor.

GATES: Mhm.

PATRICK: But the pundits doubted it and the pollsters doubted it and they doubted me of course so I felt like a lot of things were affirmed.

FOR DEVAL, THIS HISTORIC ELECTION WAS THE CULMINATION OF A LIFE SPENT LEARNING HOW TO SUCCEED AS AN AMBITIOUS AND TALENTED BLACK MAN IN A PREDOMINANTLY WHITE WORLD.

DEVAL LAURDINE PATRICK WAS BORN ON JULY 31, 1956 ON CHICAGO’S SOUTH SIDE.  

HIS MOTHER EMILY WAS A HOME MAKER, AND HIS FATHER PAT WAS A SAXOPHONIST WHO USED MUSIC TO EMBRACE HIS AFRICAN ROOTS.

Footage of Pat Patrick performing

PAT PATRICK WAS A OF MASTER OF FREE JAZZ, HE PERFORMED WITH SOME OF THE MOST ACCOMPLISHED JAZZ MUSICIANS OF THE DAY FROM THELONIOUS MONK TO SUN RA.

PATRICK: They were way out on the edge, um in terms of what they were trying to do with that… with that music at the time. He saw his art um, both in musical terms and in cultural terms. Um, he was a black nationalist, early. Very militant…

BUT TO DEVAL, PAT’S ROOTS REMAINED SHROUDED IN MYSTERY. HIS FATHER ALMOST A STRANGER.

AND THAT’S BECAUSE PAT PATRICK WALKED OUT ON THE FAMILY WHEN DEVAL WAS JUST 4-YEARS-OLD.

PATRICK: I remember the fight the day they split.

GATES: Hm.

PATRICK: Uh, and I remember my father stalking out, and my chasing him down the, down the street while he was walking away, and asking where he was, uh, where he was going. I was four.

GATES: Mhm.

PATRICK: And I remember in his anger he, you know, he kept telling me to go home, go home, go home, and I kept coming, and uh, in his anger, he turned around and hit me, and uh and I fell and I remember um the burning of my palms on the uh on the concrete and I remember looking up and watching him walk away from that, uh, from that position, and that I will never forget.

GATES: Oh, that’s horrible.

PATRICK: Yeah. I miss my dad.

GATES: Mhm.

PATRICK: I missed having a dad. Um, or I missed, I missed what I thought, um, having a dad was like. My mother was worried about raising a black teenage boy on the South Side of Chicago in that time.

GATES: Mhm.

PATRICK: It was an increasingly dangerous time, a more violent time. The gangs were organizing and starting to pay attention to younger kids, and recruiting.

B roll/archive of milton

BUT DEVAL WAS RECRUITED BY A DIFFERENT GROUP.

IN MIDDLE SCHOOL, HE EARNED A SCHOLARSHIP TO ATTEND ONE OF AMERICA’S MOST PRESTIGIOUS PRIVATE SCHOOLS: MILTON ACADEMY IN MASSACHUSETTS.

PATRICK: It was like landing on a different planet. That’s what it was, I mean, you can see, you can see from the picture in the Milton Bulletin I hadn’t quite figured it out. I mean the whole language of the place was foreign to me.

GATES: Mhm.

Photos of teenage Deval with Afro

DEVAL SOON FIGURED OUT HOW TO THRIVE IN THE ELITE CIRCLES AT MILTON. BUT HE ALSO HAD TO FIGURE OUT WHAT AN EDUCATION IN AN ELITE WHITE PREP SCHOOL MEANT FOR HIS BLACK IDENTITY.

PATRICK: By then my father and I, we had reconnected. He was in, he was in New York, deeply, deeply disapproving of my going to Milton Academy.

GATES: Why did your father disapprove?

PATRICK: Well, I think he felt-I know he felt, he said, um, that it was gonna, you know, turn me white.

GATES: Mhm.

PATRICK: It was gonna, make me lose touch with, my heritage and ultimately break my heart. It’s a very interesting experience, and at the time, one where there was a real risk of having your heart broken.

GATES: Mhm.

PATRICK: Because you were straddling these two worlds.

GATES: Mhm.

PATRICK: And the uh, and sometimes, the price of admission to one.

GATES: Mhm.

PATRICK: Was denying the other.

GATES: Mhm.

PATRICK: If you know what I’m?

GATES: Oh, absolutely.

Negotiating the politics of identity is AS NOT SIMPLE AS black or white. For every guest in the series Dna analysis revealS the patchwork of ANCESTRAL REGIONS THEY CARRY within THEIR genomes.

AND LEARNING THE COMPLEXITY OF THEIR GENETIC MAKE-UP ALMOST ALWAYS TAKES MY GUESTS BY SURPRISE.

GATES: You’ve got some brother in there, man…3.7 percent is a lot.

SANCHEZ: That’s unbelievable.

GATES: It’s unbelievable.

GATES: So what is this, Asian? You know, that was a shock.

SEDARIS: Huh, Asian.

FEY: Oh! I am a little Asian!

GATES: Yes, 6 percent Asian. I mean that’s incredible. I don’t think we’ve ever had a white person with six percent Asian.

FEY: Really?

COLICCHIO: Oh wow. Middle Eastern.

STING: 10.8 percent Northern European.

GATES: Mhm.

STING: .1 percent Iberian!

GATES: Mhm.

Kushner: The fact that I have strong connections on some level to Asians and Native Americans is a great thing to think about.

FIELD: Thank God for that little bit of yellow and that little bit of turquoise and gold color.

GATES: (Laughs)

FIELD: Because just for the DNA alone, you need diversity. We know that. We know that. And if only the world would learn that. (Laughs)

SO, IF DNA REVEALS THAT OUR ANCESTRY IS SO MIXED WHY DO PEOPLE FEEL SO STRONGLY ABOUT EMBRACING JUST ONE IDENTITY.

WHY DOES AMERICAN SOCIETY INSIST ON LABELING ITS CITIZENS AS BELONGING TO A SINGLE RACE.

I WENT TO VISIT THE PIONEERING GENETECIST DOCTOR DAVID ALTSHULER. HE’S ONE OF THE SCIENTISTS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE 1,000 GENOMES PROJECT – THE LANDMARK STUDY OF GENETIC VARIATION AROUND THE WORLD.

GATES: Why do you think race matters so much to people?

ALTSHULER: I do believe that human beings are intrinsically kind of tribal. You know,I think that that’s probably constructed in some way in our evolutionary past is that we did better if we banded together than if we were on our own. It’s this deep, underlying desire to be part of a group. And for some people, that focus is race.

GATES: How does the work that you’ve done inform how you think about the debate about the nature of race?

ALTSHULER: Race is a social historical concept… grew out of the 19th century, had to do with social hierarchies, had to do with explanations for why some people were…had a very different experience than others and could impose that on others.

IT TURNS OUT THAT WHAT WE CALL RACE TODAY IS ACTUALLY A RELATIVELY NEW CONCEPT.

DAVID EXPLAINED THAT IT WASN’T UNTIL THE 1800’s THAT SCIENTISTS BEGAN TO USE SKIN COLOR AND OTHER TRAITS TO CLASSIFY HUMAN BEINGS INTO THE SO-CALLED THREE ‘GREAT RACES’ – CAUCASIANS, NEGROIDS AND MONGOLOIDS.

EMPLOYING THE LIMITED SCIENTIFIC METHODS OF THE DAY THEY RANKED PEOPLE IN A STRICT RACIAL HIERARCHY…AND THEY BEGAN DEFINING ‘RACE’ AS AN IMMUTABLE AND ALL-DETERMINING TRAIT SOMETHING YOU’RE BORN WITH THAT WILL NEVER CHANGE.

SO WHAT DOES THE LATEST DNA SCIENCE HAVE TO SAY ABOUT THIS CONCEPTION OF RACE?

IN MY CASE, LEARNING ABOUT THE DIVERSITY OF MY GENETIC MAKEUP SET ME ON A QUEST TO FIND OUT THE SOURCE OF MY EUROPEAN GENES. DESPITE THE FACT THAT OVER HALF OF MY ANCESTORS OVER THE LAST HALF MILLENIUM WERE WHITE, I’VE NEVER BEEN ABLE TO IDENTIFY ANY ONE OF THEM BY NAME.

THAT’S WHY I’M IN CALIFORNIA, TO MEET WITH C.C. MOORE A GENETIC GENEALOGIST. A NEW FIELD IN ANCESTRY TRACING.

MOORE: So I’ve been looking at your DNA results.

GATES: Okay.

MOORE: You’ve been tested at all 3 of the companies that offer autosomal DNA testing for genealogical purposes…

GATES: Mhm.

MOORE: …and in those databases there’s at least 1.1 million people…

GATES: Mhm.

MOORE: …so there’s a lot of opportunity to find things.

MOORE: So what I did is I went through the list of people who share DNA with you.

GATES: Mhm.

MOORE: …and that implies that you have a common ancestor somewhere in your family trees.

GATES: But they could be anywhere. Anywhere on this tree.

MOORE: They could be anywhere. That’s exactly right.

GATES: Mhm.

MOORE: Anywhere on their tree, and anywhere on yours.

GATES: Mhm.

MOORE: So what I look for are commonalities.

C.C. NOTICED THAT one family KEPT POPPING UP IN MY LIST OF GENETIC COUSINS: A family called THE MALES.

MOORE: And I started looking at your DNA matches who had Male occurring in their family trees. This is Beverly White.

GATES: Mhm.

MOORE: She’s one of your top matches.

GATES: Mhm.

MOORE: So she shares more DNA with you than almost anyone else on your list.

GATES: Mhm.

MOORE: So in her case we were able to trace this particular line back to Wilmore Male.

GATES: Hm.

MOORE: And he was born in 1755. This is another of your top DNA matches. His name is Keith Johnson.

GATES: Mhm.

MOORE: And his direct paternal line is actually a Male line.

GATES: Mhm.

MOORE: …and it goes back to, again, Wilmore Male.

GATES: So the same guy!

MOORE: Born in 1755.

GATES: Wow!

MOORE: Well these are just two of many.

GATES: Mhm.

MOORE: Lots of your DNA matches have family trees that include Wilmore Male.

GATES: Hm.

MOORE: So that tells me, he’s very likely one of your ancestors as well.

GATES: And, uh, he was a white man.

MOORE: He sure was.

OUR DNA CAN ONLY BE INHERITED FROM OUR ANCESTORS, SO THIS WHITE MAN – WILMORE MAYLE – HAS TO BE A DIRECT ANCESTOR ON ONE OF THE LINES OF MY FAMILY TREE. THIS IS THE FIRST TIME THAT I’VE BEEN ABLE TO IDENTIFY ANY OF MY WHITE ANCESTORS BY NAME.

BUT AS WE’VE DISCOVERED IN THIS SERIES – BEING DESCENDED FROM A WHITE ANCESTOR IS NOT THAT UNCOMMON AMONG AFRICAN AMERICANS.

GATES: Your great-grandaddy was a white man.

NAS: I knew it was somewhere down in there. I knew it was in there somewhere so… you know, it’s what it is you know?

GATES: What do you think the relationship between your third great grandparents was? The slave owner and the slave.

JETER: It was… It was not consensual I would guess.

GATES: John Harrison, white man, is your third great grandfather.

ALEXANDER: Yeah…

GATES: How does it make you feel?

ALEXANDER: It’s strange you know feel half and half because I’m sure she was raped. It wasn’t like she willingly had sex with him. And you know had these children.

GATES: You share DNA with these people. You are in fact related to the family that owned your great, great, great, grandfather.

JEALOUS: It makes me sick to think about men raping women and a slave has no rights, so there’s no other way to describe it.

IT WAS SO COMMON FOR WHITE MEN TO IMPREGNATE BLACK SLAVES THAT TODAY THE AVERAGE AFRICAN AMERICAN IS ACTUALLY ABOUT A QUARTER EUROPEAN. I WANTED TO SEE WHAT DNA WOULD TELL US ABOUT THE COLOR OF DEVAL PATRICK’S GENETIC ROOTS.

GATES: Can you read your percentages there?

PATRICK: Look at that! 58.9 percent sub-Saharan African.

GATES: Mhm.

PATRICK: 38.9 percent European.

GATES: Mhm.

IT TURNS OUT THAT DEVAL WHO HAD TO LEARN TO NAVIGATE HIS WAY THROUGH THE WHITE ESTABLISHMENT, DESCENDS FROM A GROUP OF ANCESTORS MORE THAN ONE THIRD OF WHOM WERE WHITE PEOPLE.

COULD DNA HELP US LEARN ABOUT THESE ANCESTORS ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE COLOR LINE?

WE RAN A TEST THAT LOOKED AT DEVAL’S Y-DNA. THIS CHROMOSOME IS HANDED DOWN VIRTUALLY UNCHANGED FROM FATHER TO SON GOING BACK THOUSANDS OF YEARS.

GATES: So let’s see what we found, could you please turn the page. This is where they came from in Africa, brother.

PATRICK: Come on!

GATES: (Laughs)

PATRICK: Ireland and England? Belgium and the Netherlands? Come on. You’re holding out on me here.

GATES: All of your Y DNA matches trace back to Europe.

PATRICK: Wow.

GATES: This means that your original Patrick ancestor was a white man.

PATRICK: Hm.

IT TURNS OUT THAT THIS IS JUST ONE OF DEVAL’S FAMILY LINES THAT LEAD BACK TO EUROPE. AS WE LOOKED CLOSER AT HIS FAMILY TREE WE FOUND ANOTHER STORY THAT SHOWS THAT RACE RELATIONS WERE SOMETIMES MORE COMPLICATED THAN WE MIGHT EXPECT.

THAT STORY STARTS WITH DEVAL’S GREAT GREAT GREAT GRANDMOTHER ON HIS MOTHER’S SIDE. A BLACK WOMAN NAMED EMILY WINTERSMITH WHO WAS BORN INTO SLAVERY BUT LIVED TO SEE FREEDOM.

WE DISCOVERED A LAND DEED FROM 1868, JUST THREE YEARS FOLLOWING THE CIVIL WAR. IT SHOWS THAT EMILY’S FORMER OWNER, A MAN NAMED DR. HARVEY SLAUGHTER SOLD HER A SMALL FARM FOR ALMOST NO MONEY.

PATRICK: (Reading) “It says, I have this day bargained and sold, and by these presents convey, by general warranty, to Horace Wintersmith, and his mother, Emily Wintersmith, persons of color. A certain piece or parcel of ground within the present town boundary of Elizabeth town.” Wow.
           
GATES: The land described in this deed would give Emily and Horace both security and autonomy. So why would Harvey Slaughter, why would Dr. Harvey Slaughter, do something like this for your ancestors?

PATRICK: Did he sell his other slave’s land?

GATES: (Shakes head)

PATRICK: Was there a family connection here that-?

GATES: Well, it’s what we wondered.

I ASKED CECE IF WE COULD USE DNA TO HELP SOLVE THIS MYSTERY.

MOORE: We asked Deval to take what’s called an autosomal DNA test. So we’re using autosomal DNA which you inherit from all of your great grandparents and theyir ancestors. And there’s about 1.1 million people in the databases who’ve already taken this type of test. Once we got his results back, we compared his results against all of those other people’s results.

SKIP: And what did we find?

MOORE: Well, we received a list of people who shared a significant amount of DNA with Deval. And I looked through their family trees and one of the top matches that he had was to a woman who was descended from Captain George Gray. Well, Captain George Gray is the brother of Margaret Gray, who is Harvey Slaughter’s mother.

GATES: Oh my God right there.

MOORE: So, yeah.

GATES: So Emily’s master was the father of her children.

MOORE: Yes. I would certainly say so.

GATES: So this is very convincing evidence that Deval Patrick, you descend from Dr. Harvey Slaughter.

PATRICK: Gracious.

GATES: You descend from the slave owner of Emily, your third great grandmother.

PATRICK: (Exhales) There’s a story there.

GATES: Now you know that there are all these stories that, that what the master did and but in your case, we know.

PATRICK: Well, it makes me feel it takes my breath away. Uhm, it also, you know, it’s not entirely consistent with the cruelty part that um…Was it Dr. Slaughter?

GATES: Yeah, Dr. Slaughter.

PATRICK: Would then convey land to my great-great-grandmother.

GATES: Yeah.

PATRICK: And and his son.

GATES: Yes.

PATRICK: For life.

GATES: Yeah, it defies the, what we were taught in school or the stereotypes of this relationship.

PATRICK: Right, right, right.

GATES: So it sounds like they had an enormously complicated relationship.

PATRICK: Yes, as humans do.

GATES: Yeah.

PATRICK: Yeah. It’s amazing. You know, we have spent so much of our history trying to harden what turns out to be quite blurred lines.

GATES: Mhm.

PATRICK: …among and, and between people, and probably the, the sooner we acknowledge how blurred they are, and how common our humanity is, the better off we will be.

SO HOW SHOULD WE THINK ABOUT OUR IDENTITIES, WHEN STORIES LIKE THIS SHOW THAT OUR ANCESTRY IS FAR MORE VARIED THAN MOST OF US COULD EVER IMAGINE.

I WENT BACK TO HARVARD GENETECIST AND PHYSICIAN DAVID ALTSHULER TO SEE WHAT HIS WORK COULD TELL US ABOUT HOW OUR GENETIC HERITAGE BLURS OUR UNDERSTANDING OF THE AMERICAN COLOR LINE.

GATES: How much genetic overlap is there between what we call the different races?

ALTSHULER: Genetic studies have now made it possible to go in and actually sequence every letter of the DNA of lots of people. You take any two people’s genomes, one from me and one from you and compared them, they’re 99.9 percent identical. So 99.9 percent of the letters are the same and then of the one to thousand or so that differ, 90 percent or more are shared all over the world.

ALTSHULER: There’s actually something magnificent about the idea of having thousands and millions of ancestors such a short time ago and that you have thousands and millions and everyone else has thousands of millions and many of them were the same people. It’s almost like a web.

GATES: It’s amazing.

ALTSHULER: It’s amazing. When you look at data on populations and you find the connections between people who think they’re unrelated, you realize that we really are all a family.

IN MY OWN CASE, DNA TESTING HAD REVEALED THAT ONE BRANCH OF MY FAMILY TREE LEADS TO A WHITE MAN NAMED WILMORE MAYLE. BUT WHO WAS HE? AND WHAT WAS HIS RELATIONSHIP TO MY BLACK FEMALE ANCESTOR? DID HE LOVE HER? DID HE OWN HER? OR DID HE EXPLOIT HER?

Skip and Alexandra walking down the street

I TRACKED DOWN A DESCENDANT OF WILMORE MAYLE. HER NAME IS ALEXANDRA FINLEY. NOW WE MIGHT NOT LOOK LIKE IT, BUT OUR DNA SAYS THAT SHE AND I ARE COUSINS.

ALEXANDRA HAS BECOME SO FASCINATED BY OUR SHARED ANCESTOR WILMORE MAYLE – THAT SHE’S TAKEN ON THE ROLE OF FAMILY HISTORIAN.

FINLEY: So Wilmer was born in 1755, in England. Here’s a record of his baptism.

GATES: Hmm. (Reading) “St. James the Apostle Church, Dover, Kent, England. That’s what I’m talking about. Wilmer Mayle, son of William and Mary.”

FINLEY: And then, sometime in the 1760’s, Wilmer and his parents migrated to the Colonies.

THIS BAPTISMAL RECORD FROM AN ENGLISH CHURCH IN 1755 LEAVES NO DOUBT THAT WILMORE WAS WHITE. ALEXANDRA SCOURED THE PAPER TRAIL FOR CLUES ABOUT WILMORE’S LIFE IN THE NEW WORLD.

Alexandra researching in wv courthouse

ALEXANDRA FOUND OUT THAT WILMORE MIGRATED FROM ENGLAND TO VIRGINIA WORKED AS A FARMER AND THEN BOUGHT A SLAVE NAMED NANCY.

THEN ALEXANDRA MADE A MOST REMARKABLE DISCOVERY.

GATES: (Reading) “Record of emancipation, May 6, 1826. Be it known to all, to whom it may concern, that I, Wilmer Mayle, of the County of Hampshire in the Commonwealth of Virginia, do by these presents liberate, emancipate, and forever set free my Negro woman Nancy, on the condition that she remain with me during my natural life in the quality of my wife. ” That’s amazing…

I’D NEVER SEEN A DOCUMENT LIKE THIS. IT WAS ILLEGAL IN VIRGINIA FOR A WHITE MAN TO MARRY A BLACK WOMAN. BUT THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT WILMORE MAYLE SO PUBLICLY WAS ANNOUNCING THAT HE AND NANCY INTENDED TO DO.

ALEXANDRA SEARCHED FOR ANY RECORDS THAT COULD EXPLAIN WHAT LIFE WAS LIKE FOR THIS MIXED RACE COUPLE – WILMORE AND NANCY – IN SLAVE ERA VIRGINIA WITH ITS STRICT RACIAL HIERARCHY.

Finley explaining census

SHE DISCOVERED A CLUE BURIED IN THE 1840 CENSUS ENTRY FOR WILMORE MAYLE.

GATES: He’s listed as colored.

FINLEY: Yes, and that’s the very interesting thing. Um, after he began this relationship with Nancy, um, his, uh, racial status actually changed, and due to his relationship with her, he starts being listed as free colored as well.

GATES: So they make the brother black.

ALEXANDRA FOUND THAT WILMORE WAS MOVED BACK AND FORTH ACROSS THE COLOR LINE BY GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS. APPEARING IN DOCUMENTS SOMETIMES AS A WHITE MAN, SOMETIMES LISTED AS A BLACK MAN AND SOMETIMES AS A MULATTO.

TO MAINTAIN THE STATUS QUO WILMORE’S RACE WAS IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER.

DNA ANALYSIS HAD ALREADY REVEALED THAT JESSICA ALBA’S GENOME WAS A PATCHWORK OF GEOGRAPHIC ANCESTRY. BUT SHE KNOWS ALMOST NOTHING ABOUT HER DEEP MEXICAN ROOTS.

ALBA: The Mexican-American side of, my family, there’s so many different, races that come together even to make that up. You know, are some native? Are some from Spain or Germany? I don’t know.

TODAY, ALMOST TWO THIRDS OF ALL MEXICANS IDENTIFY AS MESTIZO OR MIXED.

IT’S A GENETIC LEGACY OF THE COUNTRY’S COLONIAL HISTORY. WHEN THE SPANISH INVADED MEXICO IN THE 1500’S, THEY FATHERED CHILDREN WITH NATIVE AMERICANS AND WITH THEIR AFRICAN SLAVES.

JESSICA TOLD ME THAT SHE HAD ALWAYS HEARD THAT HER PATERNAL LINE, THE ALBA LINE LED TO A SPANISH MAN WHO FATHERED A CHILD WITH A NATIVE AMERICAN WOMAN.

TO SEE IF THAT WAS TRUE, WE RAN A Y-DNA ANALYSIS ON HER FATHER MARK ALBA.

GATES: All the Albas did not come from Europe.

ALBA: They’re native.

GATES: They’re Native Americans.

ALBA: Oh, that’s fantastic!

GATES: That means that your direct paternal ancestors have been in the New World for centuries. They did not come from the Conquistadors. You, on your father’s line, are definitely descended from Native Americans.

ALBA: My grandfather looks native. (Laughs)

GATES: Yeah, well, for good reason.

IT SEEMS LIKE ALMOST EVERY GUEST IN OUR HAS HEARD A RUMOR ABOUT A NATIVE ANCESTOR ON THEIR OWN FAMILY TREE.

KING: Okay, we keep hearing we have Seminole Indian…

GATES: Seminole Indian…

KING: …in our blood and my mother has always thought she is, so she…it’s very interesting. That’s kind of been very important to my mother’s identity I think.

SMITH: I hope I have some Native American, though. Everybody does.

COOPER: I remember some family story that we were part Choctaw.        

GATES:  Really?

COOPER:  Yeah. I know. I’m very Choctaw. Yes.  

GATES:  Yeah.

COOPER:  I have the distinctive Choctaw nose.

BASSETT: I think my grandmother on my father’s side had some Indian in her. High cheekbones, and you know, just very poised. And I look at one of my half-sisters, the complexion of her skin…we definitely had some black and Indian. I think that there had to be a connection there.

JEALOUS: Indeed, when you look at my grandmother and a lot of our family there’s a strong Native American just look.

GATES: High cheekbones? Straight black hair? That kind of thing?

Jealous: Yeah.

BUT THE DNA RESULTS OFTEN TELL ANOTHER STORY.

GATES: Basically, you have no Native American ancestors.

JEALOUS: Interesting.

GATES: Zero.

SMITH: Zero.

GATES: Native American ancestry.

SMITH: Wow.

GATES: (Laughs)

SMITH: Can’t get any tribal benefits.

KING: A hundred percent! That is boring. Oh, no.

GATES: (Laughs) Zero…

KING: That sucks.

BUT ONCE IN A WHILE THESE RUMORS TURN OUT TO BE TRUE.

COOPER: 1.3 percent East Asian Native American

GATES: It’s Native American.

COOPER: That’s amazing.

GATES: So where do these Native American ancestors come from? When we look at your fascinating twenty first chromosome which is where you have that Native American DNA?…

COOPER:  It’s Chile.

GATES:  We see that you have a very strong match with the person
who has all four grandparents from Chile.

COOPER:  Wow. So I’m part Chilean.

GATES: Yeah.

COOPER: Yes!

IN THE CASE OF VALERIE JARRETT, WE HAD TRACED HER MOTHER’S SIDE BACK TO HER SEVENTH GREAT GRANDMOTHER, A WOMAN NAMED HENRICA COLON. WE FOUND HENRICA’S BAPTISMAL RECORD AND IT CONTAINED A CRUCIAL CLUE ABOUT HENRICA’S MOTHER’S RACE.

JARRETT: (Reading) “November 27, 1698, Henrica, one month old. Father, Jean La Violette Colon. Mother, Catherine…”

GATES: Exipakinoa.

JARRETT: Exipakinoa.

GATES: Exipakinoa.

JARRETT: Exipakinoa.

GATES: Exipakinoa. What’s that sound like?

JARRETT: Native American.

GATES: Valerie, the Kaskaskia were one of the Algonquian-speaking Native American tribes of the Illinois River Basin.

JARRETT: Well, we always thought we had some Native American.

GATES: Well, you and every other Negro I know claim to have Native American ancestry.

JARRETT: But we really do. (Laughs)

GATES: But you really do. You are the only Negro who really got a Native American princess.

JARRETT: I am, mixed. I am good and mixed, aren’t I? (Laughs)

FOR JESSICA ALBA, I WANTED TO SEE WHAT MORE WE COULD LEARN ABOUT HER NATIVE AMERICAN ANCESTORS. WHERE DID THEY COME FROM? UNTIL RECENTLY, THIS USED TO BE ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE TO ANSWER. BUT AT STANFORD UNIVERSITY, DR. CARLOS BUSTAMANTE IS USING DNA TO RECLAIM THESE LOST NATIVE AMERICAN ROOTS.

GATES:  How does the state of genetic research into Native Americans compare with the state of research among other population groups?

BUSTAMENTE: Well, you know I would say it’s incredibly under-represented. Most of what we know about the genetic base of complex traits comes from studying populations of European descent. We’ve developed so much in terms of the resources for Europeans that we can pinpoint with high accuracy, particularly for individuals that have ancestry from a given country.

DR. BUSTAMANTE AND HIS TEAM SET OUT TO LEVEL THE DNA PLAYING FIELD. THEY COMPILED THE LARGEST MEXICAN GENETIC DATA BASE EVER ASSEMBLED.

BUSTAMENTE: We studied people from 20 different indigenous groups in Mexico.

GATES: Twenty?

BUSTAMENTE: Twenty.

BUSTAMANTE:  We’ve built a very detailed map of Native American
ancestry in Mexico, and what we found is that the native Mexican groups could be distinguished genetically very clearly. We can clearly cluster the Seri from the Tarahumara from the Zapotec from different Mayan groups.

GATES: So what can I tell Jessica Alba about where her paternal ancestors derived in Mexico?

BUSTAMANTE:  So when we look at Mr. Alba’s DNA, what we found is that about 50 percent of his genome is of Native American ancestry. Uh, and we can further now break that down…So here are northern native Mexicans. Here are individuals from the Mayan peninsula.

GATES: So he’s a bit of a smorgasbord of Native American ancestry?

BUSTAMENTE:  Well it’s consistent with somebody whose ancestry comes from many generations of Mexican ancestry. So he is descendent um from a long line of Mexican ancestry that may date back to the initial foundings of Mexico.

GATES: That’s exciting.

ALBA:  (Reading) “Two percent Seri, 12 percent northern Mexico, and 25.5 percent southern Mexico.”

GATES: And this percentage includes Mayan ancestry. Dr. Bustamante discovered that your father is 3.7 percent Mayan.

ALBA: Wow.

GATES: Yeah.

ALBA: That’s cool.

GATES: Cool and we’ve never seen this before.

ALBA: That’s amazing.

THESE RESULTS MADE US CURIOUS…WHAT OTHER GENETIC ANCESTRIES MIGHT BE BURIED IN JESSICA’S MESTIZO ROOTS? WE LOOKED CLOSER AT HER DNA…AND DISCOVERED A SECRET HERITAGE THAT JESSICA HAD NEVER HEARD ABOUT.

GATES: We noticed something else really interesting. Your father also has a small amount of Jewish ancestry, 0.7 percent, and his Italian DNA is 0.6 percent, and Middle Eastern/North African DNA is 0.8 percent. A result like yours and your father’s suggests a history of hidden Sephardic Jewish ancestry.

ALBA: Wow.

GATES: You ever think you had Jewish ancestry?

ALBA: No, that’s, that’s really cool.

I WANTED TO SEE IF WE COULD FIGURE OUT HOW THIS JEWISH ANCESTOR ENDED UP IN JESSICA’S FAMILY TREE.

CECE NOTICED SOMETHING SIGNIFICANT ABOUT JESSICA’S FATHER’S MITOCHONDRIAL DNA, THIS IS THE GENETIC FINGERPRINT THAT EACH OF US INHERITS FROM OUR MOTHER WHO INHERITED IT FROM HER MOTHER IN AN UNBROKEN PROCESS.

Family tree to Carmen Carillo

JESSICA’S FATHER’S MOTHER’S LINE LEADS BACK TO JESSICA’S FOURTH GREAT GRANDMOTHER. A WOMAN NAMED CARMEN CARILLO WHO WAS BORN IN MEXICO IN 1820.

AND WE FOUND OTHER PEOPLE IN THE DNA DATABASE WHO ALSO MATCHED CARMEN’S MITOCHHONDRIAL SIGNATURE.

MOORE: All of these people who have this subclade from Spain, Italy, Germany, Poland, and Ukraine, all said they had Sephardic Jewish ancestry …

GATES: No kidding.

MOORE: …on their maternal line.

GATES: Wow, so…

MOORE: Yeah.

GATES: …that’s pretty convincing evidence.

MOORE: It’s…We were able to confirm that those hints of Sephardic Jewish ancestry were real. So that means that Carmen Carillo was either of Sephardic Jewish ancestry or her maternal line was.

CARMEN’S FAMILY WAS PART OF A FASCINATING HISTORY. IN LATE 15th CENTURY SPAIN JEWISH PEOPLE WERE GIVEN A TERRIBLE CHOICE: CONVERT TO ROMAN CATHOLICISM, FACE EXECUTION, OR LEAVE THE COUNTRY. EVEN SOME WHO CONVERTED FLED TO COLONIAL MEXICO…WHERE THEY FOUND REFUGE oN THE FRONTIER OF THE SPANISH EMPIRE AND PRACTICED THEIR TRUE FAITH IN SECRET. EARNING THEM THE NAME, CRYPTO JEWS.

JESSICA’S ANCESTORS WERE AMONG THOSE WHO FLED. HER DNA TELLS US SO. JESSICA’S GENOME ALSO REVEALS HOW SHE’S RELATED TO OTHER JEWISH PEOPLE.

GATES: We always look at all the guests in this series, to see who your cousin is…if you have any genetic cousins. And you do have one.

ALBA: Who?

GATES: Turn the page.

GATES: …and that is your genetic cousin!

ALBA: Really?

GATES: You are related to Alan Dershowitz, one of the most brilliant lawyers in the whole world.

ALBA: Wow!

GATES: Bet you’d never guess that!

ALBA: No!

GATES: This is your cousin.

DERSHOWITZ: Wow, I’m a great fan of hers! Is she Jewish?

GATES: Well if she wasn’t before, she is now!

DERSHOWITZ: (Laughs) …now! Right, right!

SHARED GENETIC MUTATIONS AMONG EASTERN EUROPEAN JEWISH PEOPLE REFLECT THEIR UNIQUE HISTORY. THEIR ANCESTORS, FIRST IN THE MIDDLE EAST AND THEN IN EUROPE WERE ISOLATED FROM OUTSIDE GROUPS. AND HAD A STRONG TRADITION OF MARRYING WITHIN THEIR RELIGION. THESE HIGH INTERMARRIAGE RATES LED TO UNIQUE GENETIC PATTERNS.

GATES: I want you to turn the page, and you can meet your cousin.

KUSHNER: (Laughs) I’m terrified! …Oh my God! Carole King!

GATES: Carole King.

KUSHNER: Ah! Well that makes me happy!

KING: Oh my god, seriously?

GATES: You and Tony Kushner are cousins.

KING: You’re killing me! (Laughs)

GATES: You have significant Jewish ancestry.

REUBEN: So basically, I’m a Jewish girl in a black body.

GATES: (Laughs)

GATES: And 2 percent European Jewish, or Azkenazi Jewish.

SEDARIS: Huh, well that’s interesting.

GATES: Isn’t that wild?

SEDARIS: How much percent do you have to have, to tell people you’re Jewish?

DERSHOWITZ: Theoretically, you’re a Jew if your mother is Jewish. In practice, here’s the way it works. If your mother is Jewish, and you’ve done something terrible, they say “oh he’s only half-Jewish.”

GATES: (Laughs)

DERSHOWITZ: If your father is Jewish and you’ve done something great, they say “oh he’s half-Jewish!”

GATES: (Laughs)

Deval’s family tree

IN THE CASE OF DEVAL PATRICK, DESPITE THE FACT THAT HE’S CLEARLY AN AFRICAN AMERICAN, THE ONLY GENETIC LINES WE’VE BEEN ABLE TO TRACE ACROSS THE ATLANTIC ALL LED STRAIGHT TO EUROPE.

SO WE TURNED TO HIS DIRECT MATERNAL LINE…WHICH FOR THE OVERWHELMING MAJORITY OF ALL AFRICAN AMERICANS LEADS STRAIGHT BACK TO AFRICA.

Move up maternal line on tree

DEVAL’S MATERNAL GRANDMOTHER WAS A LIGHT SKINNED WOMAN NAMED SALLY MAE EMBERS.

SHE WAS BORN IN 1902 AND GREW UP IN JIM CROWN KENTUCKY.

PATRICK: They would often go to a diner or something like that and she would go in first and order the food and once it was placed she’d beckon the rest of the family in and at this one place, when the family came in and sat down, the food was on the table, the owner came up and said, uhm, I’m sorry, you can’t eat here, you have to eat in the kitchen, and her response was we don’t eat in the kitchen in our own home.

GATES: (Laughs)

PATRICK: And they got up and left the food on the table and walked out.

GATES: Oh, man, that’s great.

PATRICK: Yeah, yeah, she was tough.

WE HAD ALREADY FOUND THAT DEVAL’S FATHER’S, FATHER’S LINE LED TO THE BRITISH ISLES…SO WE ANALYZED DEVAL’S MITOCHONDRIAL DNA, WHICH HE INHERITED FROM SALLY MAE…TO SEE IF THIS LINE DOES IN FACT LEAD BACK TO AFRICA.

GATES: That look like Darfur to you?

PATRICK: No, it doesn’t. I see Ireland. I see the UK. I see Norway.

GATES: What you are looking at is your direct maternal line genetically and it’s not African at all.

PATRICK: Hmm.

GATES: It’s European.

PATRICK: Wow.

GATES: Is this surprising?

PATRICK: Of course.

GATES: (Laughs)

PATRICK: Of course. You know, my grandmother, I think, thought of herself as a black woman.

GATES: Mhm.

PATRICK: Uh, she sang like a black woman in church.

GATES: Mhm.

PATRICK: Uhm, she talked about white people in her own line, but not in this way. We know what we think we know based on what we were told and uh…

GATES: She might not have even known.

PATRICK: That’s true.

GATES: Yeah.

PATRICK: That’s true.

THAT MEANS THAT THE SECOND BLACK PERSON EVER ELECTED AS A GOVERNOR IN THIS COUNTRY HAS DIRECT MATERNAL AND PATERNAL LINES THAT LEAD DIRECTLY TO EUROPE AND NOT TO AFRICA.

IN ADDITION, DEVAL’S ADMIXTURE REVEALS THAT OVER A THIRD OF HIS ANCESTORS WERE ALSO EUROPEAN. IT USED TO BE ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE TO LEARN ANYTHING ABOUT THAT TWO THIRDS OF HIS GENETIC LINES THAT LEAD TO AFRICA.

BUT NOW A NEW TEST CAN MEASURE THE PERCENTAGE OF GENETIC ANCESTORS WHO COME FROM DIFFERENT PARTS OF SUBSAHARAN AFRICA.

GATES: The largest amount of your African ancestry comes from Nigeria.

JETER: Nigeria.

GATES: 15 percent.

JETER: This is awesome.

GATES: The largest amount is from….?

SMITH: The Ivory Coast in Ghana. That’s why those are very pretty people.

JEALOUS: Southeastern, Bantu 8 percent. Benin, Togo 5 percent. And Ivory Coast, Ghana 4 percent.

JARRETT: 8 percent the Cameroons, Congo. 6 percent Ivory Coast in Ghana.

BASSETT: Oh 15 percent Benin. Oh great artistry there, great art.

GATES: 36 percent of your African admixture comes from Nigeria.

NAS: Yes! I knew it.

GATES: The Congo, 9 percent. And Angola, 8 percent.

ALEXANDER: Wow, okay so I am African-American aren’t I?

GATES: So now you can actually name for the first time when someone says where are you from in Africa.

JETER: Now I know. It blows your mind, It really does… it really does.

I WANTED TO SEE IF THIS DNA ANALYSIS COULD FINALLY HELP DEVAL PATRICK DISCOVER WHERE HIS ROOTS LEAD IN AFRICA.

MONTAGE OF AFRICAN ADMIXTURE RESULTS

GATES: Let’s see. The largest amount, as you can see, is from Nigeria.

PATRICK: Nigeria.

GATES: Thirty percent. And then southeastern Bantu is Angola. Congo-Angola.

PATRICK: Uh-hum.

GATES: …at 11 percent. The Ivory Coast of Ghana, 10 percent,
Senegal, three percent, Benin and Togo, three percent.

PATRICK: Well it’s amazing. You can peel it quite this way…

GATES: Isn’t that astonishing?

PATRICK: It’s incredible. Thank God, you got to, to the African continent. I thought we were going to be stuck in Europe.

DNA ANALYSIS HAD FINALLY ALLOWED US TO TRACE DEVAL’S ROOTS BACK ACROSS THE ATLANTIC TO AFRICA.

Landscape shots

MY SEARCH FOR MY OWN WHITE ANCESTRY HAS TAKEN ME BACK HOME TO WEST VIRGINIA.

IT WAS IN THESE BEAUTIFUL ROLLING HILLS THAT MY ANCESTOR WILMORE MAYLE FREED HIS SLAVE NANCY, RAISED THEIR SIX CHILDREN AND THEN WAS MOVED BACK AND FORTH ACROSS THE COLOR LINE. APPEARING IN SOME DOCUMENTS SOMETIMES AS A WHITE MAN, SOMETIMES AS A BLACK MAN AND SOMETIMES AS A MULATTO.

I WENT BACK TO ALEXANDRA FINLEY, MY NEW COUSIN, AND THE FAMILY HISTORIAN TO SEE HOW WILMORE AND NANCY AND OF COURSE THEIR MIXED RACE CHILDREN NAVIGATED THEIR WAY THROUGH THE RACIAL HEIRARCHY OF THE SLAVE HOLDING SOUTH.

FINLEY: So, it turns out that Wilmer Mayle and Nancy were not the only mixed-raced families on the Virginia frontier. So these families start intermarrying, um and you know, you can see a lot of lines crossing on these family trees, and eventually the descendants of Wilmer Mayle and some of these other, uh, families start settling around Phillipi in an area called Chestnut Ridge. And over the 19th century, the community starts to become more isolated.

GATES: And these are all mixed race people?

FINLEY: Yeah.

GATES: Yeah.

FINLEY: So here’s a, a map pointing, uh, to Phillipi and Chestnut Ridge.

GATES: Yeah, I’ve been to Phillipi many times. Hmm, but it never occurred to me.

THIS IS PHILIPPI, WEST VIRGINIA…ABOUT 80 MILES FROM PEIDMONT WHERE I GREW UP. SO CLOSE YET SO VERY FAR AWAY. I’D NEVER HEARD OF CHESTNUT RIDGE BEFORE. TODAY, YOU CAN STILL FIND TRACES OF ITS ORIGINAL COMMUNITY. THE MAYLE FAMILY CEMETERY WHERE MY ANCESTORS ARE BURIED. THE CHURCH AND SCHOOL WHERE THEY PRAYED AND STUDIED.

I MET UP WITH RHONDA TABLER. SHE’S ANOTHER MAYLE DESCENDANT WHICH MEANS THAT SHE TOO IS MY COUSIN.

Bites from interview at school house

GATES: I had no idea that there was a community of, you know, mixed race people. Mulattos, really.

RHONDA: Yeah, it’s been here…

GATES: Yeah! And it’s been…

RHONDA: For hundreds…

GATES: …Hundreds of years.

RHONDA: Hundreds of years yeah.

GATES: And all descended from this white man and his black wife. Why do you think our ancestors moved here? I mean this is isolated now, let alone a hundred, two hundred years ago.

RHONDA: I believe, our family actually segregated themselves.

GATES: Yeah!

RHONDA: I mean, white people didn’t live on the ridge.

GATES: Interesting…So they found safety, protection by being isolated…these are all mixed race families, this was like mulatto heaven.

RHONDA: Yes, that’s true. Yeah.

Photos of mixed race Mayle ancestors

CHESTNUT RIDGE ISN’T THE TYPE OF PLACE YOU READ ABOUT IN MOST HISTORY BOOKS. IT WAS A REFUGE BUILT BY MY ANCESTORS SO THEY COULD AVOID THE DEGREDATION OF BONDAGE AND JIM CROW…IN A COMMUNITY OF THEIR OWN WHERE EVERYONE WAS BOTH BLACK AND WHITE AND NEITHER.

B-roll of Mayle family reunion: people hugging, showing photos

CHESTNUT RIDGE WAS SO IMPORTANT TO THE MAYLE FAMILY THAT EVEN THOUGH MANY DESCENDANTS HAVE MOVED AWAY, EVERY YEAR THEY COME FROM AS FAR AWAY AS CALIFORNIA FOR A REUNION THEY CALL HERITAGE DAY.

COUSIN: These are my descendents through Wilmore Mayle… So he was my sixth great grandfather through my dad’s line.

COUSIN: This would be my great grandmother Martha Jane Doulie Mayle, she’s a granddaughter of Wilmore and Priscilla…

THE ONLY REASON I’VE BEEN ABLE TO CONNECT WITH THIS REMARKABLE BRANCH OF MY FAMILY TREE IS BECAUSE OF CLUES BURIED DEEP IN MY GENOME…CLUES THAT ARE PROVING THAT AMERICA’S COLOR LINE HAS ALWAYS BEEN MUCH BLURRIER THAN ANY OF US EVER IMAGINED.

GATES: I want you to know how much it means to me personally. First of all, to meet new family members // and I think that our family uh just shows the great unity and diversity of the human community, the inextricable interconnections of people black and white and Native American in America from the beginning. And we are the descendants of people who made those choices and in the case of William Mayles who uh had the courage of his conviction. So you know, all I can say is, wherever you are, William Mayles, you a bad dude man! And I hope Nancy’s with you and thank you for bringing us together. So thank you all. Thank you…

BEING HERE WITH MY NEW EXTENDED FAMILY HAS BROUGHT ME ONE STEP CLOSER TO SOME OF MY WHITE ANCESTORS. THOUGH I STILL DON’T KNOW EXACTLY HOW WILMORE MAYLE FITS INTO MY FAMILY TREE HE’S EXTENDED ITS BRANCHES BEYOND MY WILDEST IMAGININGS. AND WITH EACH DISCOVERY OF OUR DNA COUSINS I CONTINUE TO BE AMAZED BY JUST HOW CONNECTED ALL MEMBERS OF THE HUMAN FAMILY TRULY ARE.

DERSHOWITZ : I’ve always been an egalitarian and believed in the Human Family, and now I feel much more connected to the human family. It’s affirming to me.

JARRETT: It clarifies for me, in a very personal way, that I have as a rich and as strong of a heritage in this country as anybody.

GATES: Hmm.

JARRETT: That feels really good.

BURNS: People spend too much time worrying about the the purity of blood and less time worrying about the experience of life.

GATES: DNA shows there never was purity of blood.

BURNS: There’s never purity of blood. Just as the United States is so proudly mongrel in its DNA, in its very core, then to participate that is thrilling.

NAS: It’s like we’re a beautiful mixture of American blood through and through. Like you can’t get more American than Native American, European and African mixed.

ALBA: It’s cool that I get to walk now, uh, for the rest of my life knowing where I came from, and when I visit different countries, I have a sense of really feeling the history in a different way, to think that my ancestors probably walked those streets.

GATES: Mhm.

GATES: I want to give you a gift.

PATRICK: Thank you.

GATES: Would you open that?

PATRICK: Sure.

GATES: Using genealogy, the traditional paper trail, and DNA, we were, my brother, able to construct your whole family tree.

PATRICK: Look at that! Look at that! What a beautiful gift. I can’t wait to study this. Think of the amount of distance traveled, in every sense, you know, the miles traveled, the cultures traveled.

GATES: Uh-hum.

PATRICK: It makes you feel small and big at the same time.

GATES: Hmm.

PATRICK: Humble, but also very connected.

GATES: Hmm.

PATRICK: That’s a beautiful thing.

SKIP (PTC): That’s the end of our journey. Join us next time for another episode of “Finding Your Roots.”

[END]

Episode Credits Print

Episode 210: “Decoding Our Past” – Jessica Alba / Governor Patrick and more

A Film by Kunhardt McGee Productions
and Inkwell Films
In Association with Ark Media

EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS
Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
Peter W. Kunhardt
Dyllan McGee

Senior Producer
John Maggio

Director/Producer
Jesse Sweet

End Credits:

SERIES PRODUCERS
Sabin Streeter
Leslie Asako Gladsjo

Written by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

EDITOR
Ilya Chaiken

CO-PRODUCERS
Nicole Bozorgmir
Hannah Olson

ASSOCIATE PRODUCERS
Brittany Clemons
Jessica Xanthe Cran
Samantha Gowda
Stephen Robinson

RESEARCHERS
Megg Farrell
Alexandra Finley
Joey Fishman

GENEALOGICAL RESEARCHER
Johni Cerny

DNA CONSULTANT
CeCe Moore

POST PRODUCTION SUPERVISOR
Stephen Altobello

LINE PRODUCER
Stef Gordon

PRODUCTION COORDINATOR
Elyse Hughes

DIRECTORS OF PHOTOGRAPHY
Stephen McCarthy
Samuel Russell

ADDITIONAL CAMERA
Austin de Besche
Nicole Bramley
Sandra Chandler
Elizabeth Yarwood

GAFFERS
Jim Mitchell
Elan Yaari

GRIPS
Roger Marbury
Dillon Schneider
Josh Weinhaus

LIGHTING AND ELECTRIC
Illumination Dynamics
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Red Herring Motion Picture Lighting Inc.

GRAPHIC DESIGN
Andy Cahill
Brian Oakes

ANIMATION
Andy Cahill
Kaitlyn Cecchitti
James Holland

ONLINE EDITOR
Chris Connolly

ASSISTANT EDITORS
Todd Goings
Mike Pickett
Edward Wardrip
Julian Cornwell
Jeff Pfeiffer

APPRENTICE EDITOR
Rebecca Welsh

Original Score by Michael Bacon

SOUND RECORDISTS
Steve Bores
Frank Coakley
John Koster
Mark Mandler
Caleb Mose

VO ENGINEER
Kevin McLaughlin

SOUND RE-RECORDING
Richard Fairbanks

SOUND EDITING
Kevin Peters

FOLEY ARTIST
Brian Vancho

FIELD PRODUCTION ASSISTANTS
Mitchell Bisschop
Danny Morgan

MEDIA MANAGERS
Mitchell Bisschop
Nicole Bramley
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SUPERVISING PRODUCER
Deborah Clancy Porfido

IT SUPPORT
Ben Meadors

INTERNS
Mischa Aletta
Phylicia Ashley
Julia Kielian Bullock
Aaron Kalisher-Coggins
Elon Cook
Eric Cotton
Lorelai Germain
Antoine Rouet
Natalie Warchol

ARCHIVES

Marshall Allen
The Bridgeman Art Library
Broad Institute
Pete Chafos
Claremont Heritage
Corbis Images
David Rumsey Map Collection
Bea Armenta Dever
The Family of Jessica Alba
The Family of Deval Patrick
Matt Garcia
Salvador David Garcia
Irene Welch Garner
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Lauren Dugas Glover
Harvard Yearbook Publications
The Image Works

ARCHIVES
The Jacob Radar Marcus Center of The American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati, Ohio
Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division
The Life Premium Collection / Getty Images
Michele Martinez
Renee McCoy-Collins
Milton Academy
NBCUniversal Archives
Pat Patrick Archives, Africana Studies Center, Berklee College of Music
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Statue of Liberty National Monument, National Park Service
SuperStock
Time Life Pictures / Getty Images
WireImage / Getty Images

LOCATIONS
Barbour County Fairgrounds
Broadway Stages
Carondelet House, Los Angeles, CA
Hampshire County Courthouse, Romney, WV
Hob Knob, Martha’s Vineyard
Los Angeles Trade-Technical College
Massachusetts Historical Society
Massachusetts State House
New England Historic Genealogical Society

ADDITIONAL RESEARCH
Amy Berssen
Irita Canady 
Meranda Caswell
Maria Cortez
Laura Fuller
Moises Garza
Andy Likins
Mark Newton
Jenny Orgil
Amy Reid
Jeremiah Rose
Nick Sheedy
Linda Vixie
Denise Ziegelbein

TRANSCRIPTION
CLK Transcription, Inc.

TELEPROMPTER
Kelly Cronin

GENETIC TESTING PROVIDED BY
23andMe
African Ancestry
Family Tree DNA

SPECIAL THANKS
Mark and Cathy Alba
Janet Alcala
Joyce Alden
Dr. David Altshuler
Bennett Ashley
Dr. William Banfield
Professor Lawrence Bobo
Elma Branch
Kasia Bryc
Angie Bush
Irita Canady
Dr. Carlos Bustamante
Janine Cloud
Dr. Lauren Dickerman
Edriss Elghannaz
Julie Eugley
Alexandra Finley
Ann Gay
Amy Gosdanian
Bennett Greenspan

SPECIAL THANKS
Renee Wintersmith Griffin
Sheila Ford Hamp
Steven K. Hamp
Happy Limo
Morgan Hawthorne
Bernard Hicks
Theresa Houck
Margaret Hrabe
Glenn and Debbie Hutchins
Richard and Lynn Jones
Chris Kennedy
Victoria Kinnear
Elise Kordis
David Lambert
Sam Lau
Rodney Laughton
Earl Lewis
James Lick
Milton Loyer
Paul Lucas

SPECIAL THANKS
Veronica Lupe
Daniel Martinez
Isabel and Jose Martinez
Bernard Mayhle
Dr. Doug McDonald
Barbara McIntyre
Marcyliena Morgan
Chuck Morrison
Joanna Mountain
Monique Nelson
Nu-Image Barbershop
Marc Perry
Amy Reid
Brian Siberell
Steve Simmons
Lars-Erik J. Sirén
Janice Stucky
Dr. James Tucker
Marial Iglesias Utset
Paul Woodbury

HENRY LOUIS GATES’S WARDROBE
Maurice Sedwell
Bespoke Tailors
Savile Row, London

HENRY LOUIS GATES’S WARDROBE
The Andover Shop
Charles Davidson
Andrew Ramroop

FOR KUNHARDT MCGEE

CO-PRODUCERS
George T. Kunhardt
Teddy Kunhardt

SENIOR RESEARCHER
Jill Cowan

BUSINESS AFFAIRS
Mary Farley

GENERAL COUNSEL
Drew Patrick

PRODUCTION COORDINATOR
William Ventura

PRODUCTION ASSISTANT
Matthew Goldman

FOR THIRTEEN

COORDINATING PRODUCER
Stephanie Carter

PRODUCTION ASSISTANT
Benjamin Phelps

EDITOR
Michael Weingrad

ADDITIONAL AUDIO
Jon Berman
Josh Broome

BUDGET CONTROLLERS
Susan Bartelt
Joy Sims

LEGAL
Odell Nails

PUBLICITY
Lindsey Bernstein
Harry Forbes
Kellie Specter-Castruita
Donna Williams
Sunshine Sachs

FOR WNET

DIRECTOR, PROGRAMMING OPERATIONS
Jane Buckwalter

EXECUTIVE IN CHARGE
Stephen Segaller

EXECUTIVE PRODUCER
Julie Anderson

This program is a production of Kunhardt McGee Productions, Inkwell Films and THIRTEEN Productions LLC in association with Ark Media and WNET which are solely responsible for its content.

© 2014 THIRTEEN Productions LLC, Kunhardt McGee Productions, Inc. and Inkwell Films, Inc. All rights reserved.