Bill O’Reilly’s Ancestry and the Meuse-Argonne Offensive (Lesson Plan)

In this lesson, students learn about World War I through the ancestry of Bill O’Reilly. O’Reilly is a descendant of Irish immigrants, and his grandfather — John O’Reilly III — served in WWI in the 307th Infantry. The 307th was part of the “Melting Pot” division, largely composed of the children of New York City’s immigrants, including the Irish. During John’s service, he fought in one of the war’s most pivotal battles: the Meuse-Argonne Offensive of 1918.

Maya Rudolph’s Ancestry and the Emancipation Proclamation (Lesson Plan)

In this lesson, students learn about the Civil War, the Emancipation Proclamation, the abolishment of slavery, and the struggle for freedom. Maya Rudolph’s third-great-grandparents were slaves in Kentucky in the early 1800s. Although they were freed per the slave owner’s will upon his passing, his grandson acted against this directive. Maya’s third-great-grandparents sought legal action — and won.

Ty Burrell’s Ancestry and the Homestead Act of 1862 (Lesson Plan)

In this lesson, students learn about the Homestead Act of 1862 through the eyes of Susannah Weeks — Ty Burrell’s great-great grandmother. In 1840, Susannah was a free person of color living in the slave-holding state of Tennessee. Although no record on how she was emancipated exists, census records reveal that she journeyed 2,500 miles from Tennessee to Jackson County, Oregon. Susannah had applied to become a Homesteader, which offered her the chance to become a landowner. She was one of a relatively small number of black women who would take advantage of this opportunity.

Bill Hader’s Ancestry and Border States in the Civil War (Lesson Plan)

Over the course of the Civil War, many battles were fought in the border states; control of those states was critical in determining the final outcome of the Civil War. In this lesson, students learn about border states in the Civil War through the lens of Bill Hader’s ancestors, and analyze the unique challenges they presented.

Frank Gehry’s Ancestry and the Pale of Settlement in 1882

In this lesson, students research what life was like for the inhabitants of the Pale of Settlement. The Pale was created by Catherine the Great in response to the influx of Jews from the expansion of the czarist Russian Empire, and existed from 1791 to 1917. Frank Gehry’s grandparents, Frank and Annie Goldberg, were among the 52,000 Jewish people who immigrated to Canada in the first decade of the 20th century. In the late 1800s, Annie and Frank Goldberg lived in the Pale of Settlement, a territory in czarist Russia in which Jews were legally permitted to live and to which they were restricted.

Azar Nafisi’s Ancestry and the Iranian Revolution (Lesson Plan)

In this lesson, students learn about the Iranian Revolution, overthrow of the Shah, and the treatment of women during this period. Students explore the history through the story of Azar Nafisi and her family, and in the graphic novel Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood, by Marjane Satrapi.

Mia Farrow’s Ancestry and The Battle of Gallipoli in WWI (Lesson Plan)

In this lesson, students learn about the Battle of Gallipoli in WWI, and create and label a map to better understand the geography. Mia Farrow’s grandfather’s regiment was involved in the Gallipoli Campaign, in which Allied British, Australian, French, and New Zealand troops charged Turkish lines, resulting in some of the bloodiest fighting of the war.

Season 2

Finding Your Roots in the Digital Age (Webinar)

Join PBS and Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Harvard scholar and host of PBS’ Finding Your Roots series, for a look into how science and storytelling come together to reveal the rich histories of his guests.