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Episode 1: Our American Stories

Our American Stories explores the dynamic and shifting relationship America had with her new immigrants in the 20th century. World war tore apart families and sundered the fabric of many lives, but America beckoned and millions came. Yet, America was an ambivalent host. At its best, a place of refuge and salvation, as for film director Mike Nichols whose entire family escaped Nazi Germany. At its worst, a country that would imprison two generations of Japanese Americans, like the ancestors of Olympic gold medalist Kristi Yamaguchi. Along the way, we’ll discover the buoyant American optimism that shaped chance – as in a single encounter that changed cellist Yo-Yo Ma’s life forever – to pave the road to success.

View episode credits

  • E. Hipius

    Eye-opening! Some of their backgrounds indicate heroism, escape from a terror-filled regime, search for a better life, pioneers to blaze a trail in medicine, music, art,– each of us could go back one, two, or 10 generations and be filled with awe, amazement and angst .

  • Coralynn Brown

    This is an inspiring program. It helps you appreciate the various ethnic groups that have contributed to our country. Love it.

  • Biggie Sol

    Wow. That was amazing. Very eye opening great job!

  • yvie

    This is a great program. Rich in history. Thank you PBS for airing this program. Thanks Dr Gates and sponsors for making this possible. How about opening this up to the public again, and doing a lottery for maybe 10 members (2 from each ethinc group ie caucasian, african, asian, hispanic, indian) of the public .

  • Sue Aprea

    A wonderful episode! Looking forward to the rest! Now I finally have a layman’s tool to direct those who ask “Why are you interested in genealogy?”

  • Robert Larson

    Dr Gates, PBS, and WNET staff,

    Nicely done! I missed your program last night, but watched it the next day on the PBS website. I’m the President and newsletter editor of our local genelaogical society and teach several classes on genelaogy and genelaogy software. I dedicate three months to wiritng and publishing family history every year as I feel it’s important for our members and the general public to learn about their own family history. I published a family history book in 2007, which took five years to collect over 100 biographies and 600 pictures with the help of many cousins. Many stories are inspiring, sad, or funny, but they reveal the true essence of family relationships. I delivered 80 books to my cousins, who were very appreciative.

    As newsletter editor, I collect family history stories from our members for our bi-monthly newsletter. Many stories reveal hardships, inspiraitons, and humor, which hopefully inspires more people to write their family history. Our society now offers family history wiritng classes for our members to inspire them to write their own family history, so they can pass this crucial information to their descendants.

    I’m glad PBS has these types of programs as they are inspiraitonal, and hopefuly will inspire all people on this planet to learn about their roots!

  • Christian

    I would love to have an ancestry test done and trace my ancestors back in time. It would be fascinating what came up!

  • Barbara Proko

    I loved it and didn’t want the episode to end! Really looking forward to the next five programs. What I would really love to see on PBS is a continuing series on genealogy–not just six programs, but a series with many episodes that would become a standard feature akin to “Antiques Roadshow” or “Masterpiece.” There’s no end to the material a genealogy series could cover!

  • Teresa

    Skip, you and I sat together at a conference lunch many years ago. I have been around to see the new world of computer genealogy and the growth and awareness of our love. It is wonderful that television is finally embracing what we have known for years that family and our history is the heart of everything we do. Thanks for what you are doing.

  • ELA Teacher

    Really great series, my class is watching this as a whole and it’s a wonderful teaching tool to connect both American Literature and the past.

  • ann laurence

    Thirty years ago, Louise Erdrich wrote about the boomtown Williston North Dakota
    and since that time, she has written and lived in a manner that inspires a
    better future because we have learned from the past. Our history has made us.

  • X. Fan

    To Dr. Gates and all associated staff members,

    Thank you all so much for bring this wonderful program into the American homes!!

  • Mike Dunn

    Another fine example of why we all need to support public radio and television. Can anyone imagine a program of this quality or kind being broadcast on CBS, ABC, NBC, HBO, etc.? Certainly I cannot. Thank you, Mr. Gates, for the time it must have taken to produce this film. I anxiously await the next episode.

  • Betty Dworschak

    I got the sense the Henry Gates might be full of himself (why is his chin raised in every shot?), but despite that, these are compelling stories. Although these are famous people, I believe that every family has a story to tell. Although I was moved by the stories of the various celebrities, I hope this series continues to touch on the lives of those who are not famous.

  • Lance Powers

    I enjoyed this show completely. Almost all Americans have stories like this and Gate’s presentation shows what we all have in common.

  • S

    All Harvard professors are like that.

    Thats why Princeton > Harvard. GO TIGERS!!!!!

  • T craberts

    I get the sense that Betty D. is insecure. I also get the sense that you may feel less than others thus, the comment about Dr. Gates.

  • Britain Hill

    The idea of where we came from, emphasizes the need for curiosity and etiquette.
    Respect where we all came from, lest one insult the dignity of predecessors.

    Britain Hill

  • Kimberly

    Mr. Gates,

    Thank you so much for producing such an astounding and moving show about Genealogy! I have been a genealogy enthusiast for my entire life, and a professional genealogist for the past seven years.
    Thank you for creating a show that celebrates ones past, so that we can embrace and look forward to our future.

    Anyone who would like to join my genealogy group discussion, please feel free to visit the following site:

  • Earl

    I have been doing genealogy for several years now. Sometimes it can be a real eye opener. I think it’s kind of a way of honoring those that came before us. Mr. Gates has put together an interesting series that makes it hard to wait for the next show. I wish that it was it was a continuing series. I have seen other genealogy shows by Mr. Gates and hope to see many many more. The fact is that those that are already interested in genealogy are facinated by the show and I’m sure that those that haven’t thought about it before will be drawn into the field of genealogy. I think it would be even great for Mr. Gates to have shows on the process of genealogy research. The genealogy field is a growing facination to many people and hopefully this show will grow this facination. There are many fine shows on PBS but this show rates right at the top of the pack. Thanks Mr. Gates for putting on such a fine and interesting show.

  • Mary Magana

    Wow! Great show. Mr. Gates had said that the name of the ship that Mike Nichols family had immigrated to the US on was the S.S. Bremen. That is the same ship that my great-grandfather had immigrated to New York on as well. I am so looking forward to the next episode! : -)

  • ashley

    I love love your show. I love the fact that you open doors on unity. I respect everyone’s heritage but one ethnic group that tend to be put into the dark is African American. I mean ; I am African American but I know I have other ethnicities in my blood. For example ; there are pictures in my family album my great aunt has of white people .Ever since I was a little girl NO one was able to answer who these people where OR THE QUESTION WAS IGNORED . Another example I have picture of my Great Great Grandfather who is of Native American descent .My point is everyone has interesting heritage but one that is like a leaf blowing in the wind if of African American. I just think there is a need of gaps being filled and like to see it on your show.For example I know for a fact that many slaves went far south farther than south of the border into central and south America looking for freedoom. I know for a fact that many whites have ancestors in America who of African American desecent but was able to past for white. I laugh inside where I here majority of whites claim Native American heritage ; and even give credit to them for being able to tan easily or having dark hair , so on and so. I laugh when I tell these whites they might even have african american blood in them ; and the reaction I get is like taking the very last breath out of them when you tell a white person they may have black in them.Not only whites but Mexicans and so on . My point is ; I AM NOT TRYING TO OFFEND ANYONE BUT WOULD LIKE TO SEE THE COVERS PULLED BACK ON THE SECRECT SOCIETY OF INTERRACIAL INFLUENCES THAT WE ALL SHARE IN THIS COUNtry.BIRACIAL CHILDREN DID NOT JUST POP UP IN THE 50′S ITS BEEN AROUND FOR A LONG TIME FROM THE AFRICAN SLAVES IN CENTRAL AMERICA TO THE BLACKS PASSING FOR WHITE. I WOULD LOVE TO SEE THAT THE MIX OF NATIVE AMERICANS AND Blacks Have had For centuries but its been put to shame by many Native americans.

  • em_aitch

    What a great, varied and textured group of “subjects”! Thank you Skip Gates for doing this. We are all connected. Fascinating to see the intersection of history and family dissected.

  • Elizabeth

    Dr. Gates,
    This documentary is so amazing. I can hardly wait until next week. I am so full of emotion at the sheer newness of the information, especially as I saw it in the faces of those whose histories you’ve traced. Thank you for creating and sharing such a beautifully inspiring documentary that lets us know how very special we are as Americans and just as human beings living at this time in history.

  • Concetta Crider

    I’ve seen your other weblog topics also and I can say you’ve got wonderful concepts. Preserve it up!

  • Alannah Ryane

    I love the approach used here grouping the guests stories, moving them backward in time together then within that context revealing the turning points that had major affects on their families. Also Mr. Gates has a talent of leading his guests into the reveal …well done. I too delve into the circumstances, history & politics that affected our ancestors in my own internet documentary series on my family. I find the other television series that spend a lot of time showing the research steps to get to the story slow down the intensity of the reveal.

    We carry all the experiences of our ancestors in our DNA and to think that has nothing to do with our current circumstances is to walk blindly through one’s life.

  • David

    It’s sad to see the hardships people go through to get here and to achieve. Kristi Yamaguchi’s family story comes to mind as one and I only hope that what she’s learned out about her family doesn’t change her opinions about America or the people here or the people she interacts with.

  • Barfly Sue

    I have always been aware that their was a family secrete now I have been told I am Jerinamo’s Brothers direct decindant on my fathers mothers side. I would like to have my family tree traced so I would know the truth. It is my goal to do this soon. very curious!

  • Mary Saunders

    Dr. Gates has shown us how important family is. We don’t ever think about our ancestors. The United States is truly a melting pot of peoples. He has inspired me to look back into my own family history. I can’t wait to discover all the things about my family and connections to my roots. Thank you Dr. Gates. You have given us a special gift . Can’t wait for the next show.

  • shala

    You should be embarrassed, if you attended Princeton.

  • Deborah Williams

    Henry Gates is a genius when it comes to explaining culture. I became a fan of his work early on and used his programs on Africa to teach my students about African culture and influence. He again does an excellent job. I look forward to the other programs in this series.

  • jackie sanderson

    I really enjoyed the first episode of this series. I watched the earlier series which included Oprah Winfrey and plan to watch the Who Do You Think You Are-American version– starting on March 5.
    I hope more programs can be developed like these. Maybe picking some typical stories—like a German immigrant circa 1848, an Irish Famine immigrant after that, then an Italian, Greek, etc. Not just famous people but those who could represent a typical ethnic group.
    Now we know Muhammad Ali, Barack Obama and Henry Louis Gates, Jr. had Irish grandfathers. How about explaining or exploring that phenomenon. Sort of Scarlett O’Hara meets her Daddy’s other children. We hear about the black and white children of Thomas Jefferson meeting and forming an association. There must be others like that.
    Thank you for this wonderful program.

  • Camille

    I do enjoy all programing on history, but I would like to see a show with every day people, every family has a story to tell, and these well to do celebs can afford to trace their own history, let’s see every day people and restore hope and pride, I think their reactions will be more genuine

  • Alison

    Would be nice if you carried captions, so deaf people could access this.

  • David

    I would like to see a series of everyday people as well, but, I think one of the themes of this is rising up from the ground up against all odds. So it does make sense to see that he would showcase these well known people.

  • David

    Correction, I wouldn’t call them well known(IMO); they’re well known in their circles but not well known on the whole. It’s still a good show about their ancestors coming here and making things possible for them.

  • Marilyn

    Really enjoyed this! I have been working on my genealogy for about 15 years and find it a fascinating journey. A journey that has taken me from the Midwest to England, Norway, Canada, Germany and beyond. I have learned some amazing things about my ancestors and some mundane…but I am never disappointed. Thank you for this series.

  • Edward H. Gaulin

    Dr. Gates, PBS and Sponsors:

    I regretfully missed the original broadcast but viewed it in awe on the PBS website. As a genealogist for more than 45 years, a teacher of introductory genealogy and president of four different genealogical societies none of the stories was new or surprised me but I marveled at Dr. Gates’ technique in weaving them together to achieve an incredible impact. Every American should should see this.

    I do have one compound question: Who did the individual research and where were the background documents found?

    Bradenton, Florida

  • steve linta

    I do not accpet this since it is being presented during a specific month demanded by a specific ethnic group. I wonder what is Mr. Gates’ real motives! I no longer consider Harvard a worthy University since it has becoe so discrimitory in the past 30 years! I bwliwv Adolph Hitler had a name for thios which is called propaganda….. So a few indiviuals were chosen to express their backgrounds, sort of blends in with acceptability doesn;t it? Next thing we will see ALL of the history destroyed to project another version of recent revisionists history books?

  • A.D. Faried

    This is an environment for intellectuals, clearly you do not belong.

  • A.D. Faried

    Incredible that you will focus on a raised chin to make an opinion of the man.

  • Ellen Draves

    The program was very good.

    I am a retired educator and have been working on genealogy for years.

    Educators could use this as a lesson in geography, math, English (writing papers. library skills and interviewing someone), science (dna and the advancements in technology) and history. There are endless possibilites.

    I had a young nephew tell me that a pedigree chart looked like a sports bracket. This opened up a discussion on how many relatives do you have after each generation. This could be another version of how much would you have if you had a penny on the first day and ever day after that it would be doubled for 30 days.

    Students can see the value of the lesson since they can make it personal.

  • Vilson

    I do not have any critiques. Those were artfully done by some gentleman above. I can say that simply loved it. I had a tear or two in a couple of separate moments. We can all look at this wonderful program and see our own stories, our families and ancestors. It also goes to show how anti-immigration policies of our great country do not fit America’s history. I live in NYC and I have seen the program being advertised on the subway and I knew I had to watch it. I’m glad I didn’t miss it. Congratulations Dr Gates, and keep your chin and head up.

  • Tracey Quezada

    Hello Dr. Gates,

    I’m intrigued to say the least and also inspired by “Faces of America.” There is so much information on the internet. Where should one begin when searching for their family roots, history?

    If you are looking for subjects for you family history stories for you bi-monthly newsletter I would love to be one.

    My last name is Quezada, I know my grandfather who came to the states (also Quezada) grew up in Puente Grande Jalisco Mexico. I’ve done some research and found the last name originates in Spain, also found the last name with the ending of zada, as in Quezada is Persian.

    I look forward to hearing from you.


    Tracey Quezada

  • Don Watson
  • Don Watson
  • Don Watson

    Go to on the internet.

  • Don Watson
  • Margaret Hood

    February 16, 2010

    This documentary will rempecial in my heart and mind. I now can truly appreciate the America that I have loved from the moment if was able to grasp the meaning of the words “Melting Pot of the world.” This is what makes America in that many left the countries of EU, Asia, Middle – East and because America offered hope and promise to so many who were living in servitured or being persecuted for religious purpose. Though many experieced the times of slavery and discrimination, that affected not only the ‘black community’. but white as well. The Irish experienced great discrmination as well as the Jews. So to ever even think that African-Americas hold the record for being asked to sit in the back of the bus, while many whites could not even rent of find housing because of they were Irish, Jew or Polish, Italian is to say what needs to be said. There fore we can say with a greatful heart that it was GOD, who gave America the Judeo-christtian faith and the Laws handed down by Moses over thousands of years ago, to offer up a civil society of laws and beliefs in a merciful and loving God who knew that if a more perfect society was to be formed out of the land to become Ameria, there must be order and not chaos. We can truly thank God and the founders of this great nation who had the opportunity to form a document that would have to be fine tuned but granted each opportunity to become what or whoever they might be! We are a goverment by the people and for the people and like no other govt on the face of the earth. we hold elections to make amends to the promises of less than honest politicians who promose more than they are ever able to deliver. And with this promise we keep on electing those who have the charcter and sensbilities to carry on the great traditions in this country that today promoises all equal opportunity and the freedom to be Americans. And Americans are the last great hope of a world which sees promise and why many risk their lives to come here for a fresh start. We can all still say. ‘GOD BLESS AMERICA” and may we always remain free to be a people who when reach the pinacle of our success, are able to make way and turn around and hold out our hand to help somebone else who is on their way. Thank you.

  • Phintel

    His chin is raised probably because he wears bi-focal glasses!

  • Gary Slominski

    Congratulations on a fine piece of work.As a family history buff, I coud relate to most of the methodology used.I am aware how time consuming this process is,and the art of capturing information and weaving into a organised televised program is very tough assigment ..Look forward to future episodes.Keep up the good work.

  • Diana

    Near the end of the video when they show the wall of 442nd vets, we saw grandfather’s name. Tsuneki Mizusawa. Awesome!

  • Rebecca Kohout

    I’m so thrilled to see this type of excellent programming on PBS. It’s my go-to TV home and here’s another reason to love it! Already set my DVR to record the episodes so I don’t miss a single one. It’s so inspiring and I hope other people will be encouraged to explore their family roots. It’s easier than most folks think, and as someone who teaches ‘genealogical research’, I promise it’s something everyone with a computer can do.

  • Ingrid

    I just watched episode 1, and loved it. I didn’t know the series was on, and would love to see the rest. Can you give me the Air dates?

    I started working on my family history about 10 years ago, and it has been wonderful. I was an only child who had no parents after I was 12 years old. I had very little sence of identity, and now, I just feel so blessed.

    We have been in America since 1690 when the first German came to Philadelphia as a servant. We have two very distinct types on my mom’s side. I call them Patriots and Martyrs. One side has fought in every war in defense of America, while the other side were jailed for being pacifists for their faith both in Europe, and again in America during the American Revolution. I am equally proud of both. I admire men like my dad who heard the broadcast, “Yesterday, December 7th 1941, a date that will live in infamy…”, and who left their jobs and headed for the nearest recruiting station, but I also admire men like my gggggrandfather who spent 5 years in a Swedish prison rather than renounce his faith.

    I am looking forward to this series, and the other series about to Air on Primetime TV, Who Do You Think You Are. I liked what one of the guests said about feeling as if he were under a weeping willow tree, and that his family were all the branches circling around him. I started not only as a way of finding myself, but to honor my mom. Sometimes, I imagine this huge crowd of people standing behind my computer, then they part as my mom walks forward in her United States Navy uniform, WWII, and I can feel her love rest on my shouders.

  • bridget

    It would interest me more, if it were the average joe. We are never going to speak to a movie producer, Queen Noor, Dr.Oz, Merhryl Streep, etc. These people can well afford their ancestorial investigations. It just would of interested me, if it were about the guy, down at the deli.

  • Kathy

    You cheapen the quality of this program by trying to change it to meet your expectations. The essence of the program demonstrates that even celebrities come from similar backgrounds as common people. Most of these people were not born with silver spoons in their mouths, but made their places in the world, despite the odds their ancestors endured. Why begrudge them for leading accomplished and interesting lives? We all have something in common, are weaved from similar fabric, or grew from the same family tree. The celebrities more than likely can afford to trace their own history; personally, I like Meryl Streep, Chef Mario Batali–I have his “Molto Italiano” cookbook, and others. They are everyday people whom we recognize and who have given of themselves to enrich our lives. They are American. This program gives us a chance to see another facet of their very American lives. So-called everyday people can also be disingeniuneous.

  • Di Haywood

    I’ve just discovered this site from a person on a genealogy mailing list, I’m in heaven! How good is this show!
    I find it all so interesting and it is done so well!
    Family is the most important thing in this world, some people just don’t realise, but if they watch stories like these they start to realise there is so much more to them and their family. It gives people a sense of pride to know about their ancestors, their trials and tribulations, their strengths etc.
    Thank you for these stories.
    I watch all the “Who Do You Think You Are ” series here in Australia, every one so interesting! There are so many more stories out there and a lot of interested people waiting for them.
    Love ya work Dr Gates.

  • Francisco Miguel Nava Vega Lopez

    Your work has the passion of a dedication to a life’s comittment.
    You may be interested the following ancestry of my family. My mother is Sara Lopez Tapia de Vega and my father’s name is Lazaro Nava Vega. We have extended history on my mother’s side of the family (she was born in Saltillo, Coahuila, Mexico), but very little on my father’s side (he was born in Rio Grande City,. Texas) … my mother is a descendant of General Antonio Tapia, his wife’s last name was Xausor, and he was born in a small town in the state of Michoacan, Mexico. He joined Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla and other patriots in starting the war on September 15, 1810, for the liberation of Mexico. These patriots were later captured and many, including Father Hidalgo, were beheaded and their heads were put on stakes and left there for a long time. General Antonio Tapia was captured with his son Santiago Tapia (10 years old) and was shot before a firing squad without benefit of trial. The history records have that Santiago Tapia was also going to be killed; however, he escaped into the mountains. A few years later he returned and joined the infantry…. he had lived with his father through many battles…. shortly after that he joined the cavalry and was an officer in battle at the age of 13… On May 5, 1862 (Battle of Cinco de Mayo 1862) he was the Governor and Military Commander of Puebla Mexico during this historic battle.. . . as part of my heritage I have a letter written to him from President Benito Juarez and another letter written to him from General Ignacio Zaragoza who was in charge of the military forces (i.e., groups of indigenous people)… the letter states that they were “compadres”. – - – I have quite a bit of writen documentation of General Santiago Tapia’s life.

    I do not want to take more of your time with my faher’s side of the family… it is brief but very interesting.
    I saw photographs where he is in uniform and possibly served in WW I.

    I am a volunteer, decorated veteran of WW II and Korea… I landed in Normandy, France, at “Omaha Beach” at dawn of June 6, 1944, and went on to participate in four more campaigns,,, the last one was the Ardennes (”the Battle of the Bulge”)… a brother was in the Marines and served in the Pacific… another brother was in the Air Force (ground forces)…

    If there is interest in the above please let me know.

    Francisco M. Vega
    1317 Giddings Ave., S. E.
    Grand Rapids, MI 49506

    cell: 616.240.4999

  • Jayeson Vance

    I was brought to tears about Kristi’s family being held inside a barracks. The evils of racism are poignantly brought forth. I applaud Dr. Gates and all involved in this amazing documentary.

  • Kathryn M. Lockhard

    This is just so exciting to watch. I can really appreciate the emotions. I too have found my history back to 1771 and have written a book.

  • Faye Mansourzadeh

    This is very interesting to watch. For sure all of us who are Americans came from many places.
    It would be nice if after the shows air if it would be continued with “regualr” families given the oppourtunity to see where their families can be traced to.
    May more shows like this be made.

  • T. E. Danielson

    I started reading to attempt to understand what I had missed as I haven’t watched any of the previous shows prior to today.

    Please before you read any further in my response understand one thing clearly, I support NEITHER of your opinions at this point. I will admit that propaganda can come in both positive and negative forms. The fact that someone seeks to motivate another isn’t reason for concern. What IS of concern is when it comes at the expense of another without permission. Clearly Hitler did things that violated this right.

    On the other hand, an intellectual MUST be willing to allow a person the freedom to speak their mind. They may disagree, that is fine. But to determine that one ‘does not belong’ may be paraphrased as ‘I don’t like your company, so you have no right to speak’ It takes a level of arrogance to respond in this way. What gives ANYONE is U.S. that they do not have the right to speak freely? It is one thing to say that a person’s argument is flawed. It is another to outright exclude them from any interaction.

    If I payed attention to history, I believe that this happened to the Jews in WWII, to African Americans even AFTER slavery was abolished, and this can be seen in virtually every culture in the world.

    Please have the courtesy to say i respectfully disagree because… not use the childhood response of “just go away” made to look more mature and adult. Some may be fooled by flash and appearance. I however, would like to believe that I am not and as such seek for a better means of coexistence.

  • Jim Stephenson Jr.

    Faces of America is the most moving program on TV and ABC’s Extreme Home Make Over is second. Dr. Gates is a Healer and not a Hater and makes Americans understand our true history. I loved the research of his family in West Va. and the fact that he was able to trace his family back to Africa and to Irish Kings with DNA. These current stories move me to tears on frequent occasions as it moves all the Americans he researches. From Queen Noor and the Halaby graves that over look the Statue of Liberty to Mike Nichols family that fled Germany in 1939 only to learn his Russian relatives were murdered by Stalin. Longuria and Yamaguchi had very Patriotic family members in their bloodlines and the Colbert Irish story was moting as well. Dr. Gates is great and I love this TV program.

  • Patrick Kwasny

    Well done Mr Gates. Well done.

  • carolyn smith

    i miss the program but was thrill to discover this progam on this website. i am vary interest because my family was a part of the underground railroad that ended in st.catharine onatario,canada

  • John Lamar

    what’s the internet?

  • Karl

    Actually NBC is coming out with a show called “Who Do You Are” featuring Spike Lee, Sarah Jessica Parker, Brooke Shields and others. I think the BBC has a similar show too.

  • ChekWriter

    Another cable channel had a program on this morning. DIs spelling the MYTH that there was a Master Race purported by HILTER GERMANY and his boys and girls.

    Based on basic DNA information, tested the moderator of the program. Found that he was as mixed

    as you and I are. The DNA was explained how it works. What it means. The Y Chromosome. How its

    used to determine relationship of family members.

    Where by geographic area of the world the population filtered out to the four corners of the Earth.

    I did not take the Program overall as being any more than a cross section of just how varied this country

    has become. I too worry about the future of all Records, from the hamlet on up to the Federal Level.

    Too much of the records have been found in the dumpster out back of the building. Some saved by

    a well meaning citizen. Donated to the local either Genealogy or Historical Society of the town.

    Can only hope that when each and any one of this site/program watcher, decides to do their “family Tree’ that the

    information may still be around.

  • ChekWriter

    Does not appeal to the SPONSORS. Does not fit their demographic’s etc.

    Too much of a “tunnel vision” “boring” subject.

    Appeal is not enough, save like, who gets “bedded’ by whom !

    Is not SEXY enough to keep the audiences attention. Too Dry. Not AMAZING – FLASHY – BOOM – BLAST – BANG – WOW . Explosion Blood and Gore.

    Oh, I think I recall the Civil War. The French and Indian War. The War of 1812. The Revolutionary War.

    The Whiskey Rebellion. The French Revolution. The Russian Revolution.

    Got to have ACTION. BLOOD and GUTS.

    Too bad a class is not taught on this subject in school at the appropriate grade level, along with History

    and Government, Civics, English Literature (meaning both United States and Great Britain). The Classics.

    A Good Name for It. “How In the World Did I Get Here From There ?”

    Well, that is how I feel most of the time. Now over 28 years later and still counting, each day that goes by I find

    another surname ancestor, and do attempt to find where they belong. Which TREE?

    Okay, I am obcessed says my family. But I do get the satisfaction, knowing that I might have helped some one in their quest for Family.

    Family is almost a thing of the PAST.

    Man – Woman – Child.

    Soon to be Test Tube, Clone.

    De – Materialization from one spot to the other.

  • Melody Williams

    Thank you PBS for putting the episodes on your website! I lost PBS with the digital transition. I swore that if I lost the signal, I would get satellite TV (no cable available on my road) but then we got laid-off and unemployment doesn’t provide for luxuries like any TV other than antenna. I have enjoyed all the programs involving Mr. Gates.. He makes researching your family history interesting and understandable to everyday folks. Thanks PBS for providing this series.

  • Gantry York

    Dr. Gates, don’t keep us in suspense. We want to hear about your ancestry too.

    I sincerely hope that this series will continue for a 2nd, 3rd, 4th season and beyond.

  • Colette

    As someone who is interested in oral histories, I found this profoundly moving. I sincerely hope we can find a way to invite this into the fabric of our cultures, to open our minds and heart’s to one another and to accept this as irrefutable evidence that what Chief Seattle said so many years ago is true, that “…all things are connected like the blood that unites us all. Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.” What an amazingly incredible and beautiful truth this is!

  • Peggy Cartwright

    What a beautiful program. I am so lucky, for I knew all four of my grandparents and spent my summers with my grandmothers telling me family stories, so often and so thoroughly that I can tell my children and grandchildren where we come from. We have ancestors who came to this country in 1635, and in my father’s family, a wonderful pair of people who arrived from Lanacshire in England in 1869. The stories are fascinating… probably some have been embroidered on, but what fun they were to me as a child. It is so great now to have a grandchild who is following in my footsteps as an artist, and another who reads everything she can get her hands on as I did as a child. They need to know about why and who we all were.

    You gathered together some of the most charming people in our country… the ones many of us would like to know, and certainly would be interested in where they came from. What a lovely idea.,

  • Martha Hardcastle

    Simply beautifully done. I’ve been fascinated with genealogy since I was a child and have spent many happy hours in research. I would love to see a person of Cajun ancestry presented in such a way. Most people have no idea of the genocide against the Acadians (those who went to Louisiana became Cajuns) at the hands of the British.
    Generations later, I have a direct Cajun/Acadian maternal line but am British on my father’s side.

    The other topic is of “white” Americans with African slave ancestors. Johnny Depp is my fifth cousin once removed. Our ancestors William Grinstead and Elizabeth Key had perhaps one of history’s classic love stories as Grinstead, a white Englishman fought for biracial Elizabeth’s freedom in the 1650s in Virginia. By the “one drop of blood rule,” both Depp and I would be considered black.

    Thank you so much.

  • Karen

    I missed the programs when they were on television, but the President of my family genealogy society directed our members to the website. It was a beautifully done program. Unfortunately, it was only able to scratch the surface of the subject matter, but hopefully kindled an interest for some folks to get involved in researching their family histories. I have been doing just that for a couple of years, and it now my passion. People need to know their histories, because we will all one day BECOME that history. And then so will our children, and their children. We need to know WHY we are WHO we are. Researching my family history has helped me to understand myself, and shown me ways to go forward in my life. My father was descended from a man who was one of the original settlers of what is now Connecticut, and served as Interpreter General between the colony and the Native Americans. My mother grew up in Nazi Germany, and came here with my father after WWII. I am descended from brave, hardy pioneer people and am proud of that.

  • K Roberts

    I watched the new series on NBC about celebs and their family trees. I enjoy Dr. Gates series so much better. He has a great way of painting the picture and educating us on geneology. I was disappointed with the NBC show because I am comparing it to Dr. Gates programs. I wish they would have hired him to do that show.

  • Tina Jaoued

    It is very easy to research your family history. I have been researching family histories for about 8 years and you would be surprised at how much info you can find. You should start with the census, 1930, 1920, 1910…ect… and look to see where your family lived and then look for specific area historic genealogy websites to find out more info. Many are free and contain documents searchable by county or even surname.

    Good luck!

  • Nancy L.

    The story of people is facinating. Thank you for this marvelous presentation, however does anyone ever give any thought to those of use who were adopted? Does it not seem a bit silly that the law protects the secret of a 19 year old girl who had a baby out of wedlock almost 70 years ago? I have worked on the genealogy of my adoptive parents and husband since the early ’80’s, but I will never really know my own story.

  • Andy Kane

    Many night schools offer classes now on how to research your family history. Try it-it is quite cheap, and you will learn a lot, and also have some good laughs. We had a man in my class who went through his family tree and “cleaned it up” by changing the marriage and /or birth dates so that there was always exactly 9 months or more between marriages and children. The instructor informed him that this was not the accepted way to do research but he said that his strict Catholic family would never accept his findings if there was any evidence of “hanky-panky”, as he put it. SO be prepared to find some surprises in your history-it’s not the end of the world if you find a little bit of “hanky-panky” among your ancestors too. After all, they were just human and most led hard, demanding lives. ANd to those of you who don’t think celebs should get all the attention; remember that their family histories are no different from yours.

  • Jerry B

    My wife and I loved the show!! We have both researched our families as far as we could, seems a few courthouses were burned during the “War of Northen Aggression” or some folks just fell off the face of the earth. I know my family is of mixed races, but that was “not talked about” by some. Does anyone have a recommendation of a service that does genetic (genome) testing?
    We are eagerly waiting for the next episode.

  • Julo Argus

    Hey, great article! I will bookmark this one! Thanks

  • Cortez Angelous

    Thanks, this was really a excellent read. So when is your next article coming? I can’t wait :)

  • Tsehay Abraha

    Wow this is amazing, It is wonderful to know who you are and where you come from. I would love to have an ancestry test done and trace my ancestors if it is possible. I admire Dr. Gates hard work. Thank you!!!

  • Axelle Saupe

    Thank you for creating such an inspiring show and thank you for putting it up on your website and sharing it with the world. I wish everybody would watch it, it is a true gift to see how all humans, no matter where they come from or what race they may be, have shared in the same kinds of struggles. We should all be proud of our ancestors for what they survived and conquered so we could be here today.

  • Nancy Phillips

    April 17, 2010

    Thank you so much for the wonderful series. Would you do a series every year?

  • Mellodie Rivero

    Hello Mr. Gates

    My name is Mellodie Bell-Rivero.

    I am a 32 year old African American woman who currently reside in Harlem, NY. I think we have a mutual friend name Charles Powell and I truly admire your work.

    As a child I was always curious about ” the beginning” meaning I always wanted to know the history of the beginning of life and where I came from or my family history. I actually wanted to become a biblical archeologist but headed in a totally different direction as a account executive for a fashion accessory company.

    I have watched all of your programs and wanted to know if you would research “common folk” family history or genealogy such as myself.

    I have always been asked my nationality ( which is 100% black ) because of my skin tone. I have been asked if I was of latin descent. My father ( Larry Hezikah Bell ) is of fair skin with red hair and freckles and my mother ( Sharon Williams – Bell ) is a beautiful brown skin woman. To add fuel to my curiosity I have two children ( both have the same father, my husband ) and my daughter is a BEAUTIFUL dark skin girl and my son is very fair, like my dad. My husband is dark skin and I am a med brown skin woman. The difference in my children complexions’ is EXTREMELY obvious. So much to the fact that my husband jokes around and ask me if there is something I need to tell him . So, that made me somewhat more interested in my family history.

    Unfortunately I cant afford all the test that I saw performed on your show so I am asking if possible can you research my family history.

    This would end YEARS of the desire to want to know about my family.

    I look forward to hearing from you soon :)

    All the best!

    Mellodie Rivero

  • Royd

    Professor Gates,
    This was a very informative, educational and well-presented show. Thank you.

    Ancestry DNA testing is very popular. Try searching the term and you will find many sites that offer various types of testing at reasonable prices. As mentioned above, you can also do some research starting from Birth, Death, Marriage and Census records. Good luck!

  • ariel robello

    as a ESL instructor, poet, 1st generation daughter of a Mexican immigrant and mother of a multi-racial, multi-ethnic child i thank you from the bottom of my heart for spearheading this movement to know ourselves as Americans, as immigrants, as global citizens. As anti-immigrant sentiment rears its ugly head from AZ, it is imperative that Americans not only remember but walk miles wearing one another’s shoes. this show is a chance to walk those miles.
    the references to luck in episode 1 are too casual, these stories, these great Americans are not the products of luck–God opened the doors and their brave, relentlessly talented, and brilliant ancestors walked through them.
    BRAVO!!! past present future–we are all one big family.

  • Marilyn Fech

    Heritage means a great deal to me because I know almost nothing about where I came from. I have always felt the emptiness. Questions when I was young were not answered, as if I wasn’t being taken seriously or I was being a bother (which maybe I was!) Sometimes I was deliberately misled, only finding our decades later the deception. But the need to know is strong. As I watch these people learning about their heritage, I ache and sometimes weep, knowing the supreme gift Dr. Gates is giving them.
    PBS is then giving us the impetus to seek our own history. This can only help us grow together and appreciate one another more.

  • Calvin Thomas

    On one of the episodes, there were statistics flashed across the screen regarding immigrant statistics to America. What are those statistics of immigrants coming to America?

    Thank you,

    Calvin Thomas
    PO Box 10642
    Savannah, GA 31412

  • R Perrone

    Does anyone know the name of the testing company that mad the ancestral pie chart from spit taken? My father was adopted and we have no clue of his ancestral background. Any info. will be greatly appreciated.

  • Eva

    Thank you PBS and Dr. Gates for helping people learn about their heritage, and bloodline. Unfortunately, the local networks do not advertise informative programs like this, which leaves people continuosly in the dark, and ignorant of the fact that our history has shown that many of us are distantly related. I just wish your show had preference over the cops and sex shows on television. Please keep up the great work!!

  • Amanda

    Can I watch these episode online if i’m from Canada?

  • Joanna Schlesinger Grimm

    I find this subect matter thrilling,wondrous & frustrating. Can anyone direct me in my search,as a 55year old woman,adopted at birth in the state of Maryland? My adoptive parents are both gone& left no information. I have a few facts but have never gotten too far,as I only know a few things.I have tried to find the answers on various sites for Adoptees,but if one’s biological family is not looking,you cannot be matched up.I have always dreamed of at least knowing my nationality…especially after raising two children.It isso unfair to not be able to give them that information. Now I have a 5 yr old grandson as well. Is there anyway to get my DNA checked out-to at least be able to pass along such basic info? My spiritual sense is that we all are one-related back to the very beginning in Africa.Yet there is a sadness,a void if you will, that I would be so grateful to fill before my time on earth is over. Thank you. Sincerely,Joanna S Grimm

  • Joanna

    How unfortunate that your mind is so closed due to being an ignoramus,with a moronic and sad jaded view of humanity.I pity you.



  • Janice Milligan Anderson

    Dr. Gates and staff, thank you for these wonderful programs. I’ve been doing family research for several years and find it extremely interesting and frustrating. When I have the opportunity to watch these programs I become excited again about my search. I long for stories about my ancestors. What part of them make up my personality? Last year I finally discovered my great grandmother’s grave site. How exciting it was to stand there, talk to her and tell her that she had finally been found. Dr. Gates, I do wish I had your genius for finding the stories and history in my heritage. Thank you.

  • Lucas

    Miley Cyrus should be in Faces of America, I love it!


    Thanks to you for this great article. Where I can get more information about this writting? I have a presentation incoming this week and your writting is related with it.

  • Barnet

    America is both an angel and a devil.

  • jack63kids


    If you loved this, you’re also likely to like Who Do You Think You Are? which started as a British series and now has an American version. It has a different format and follows one celeb’s family each episode and traces back one or more of their lines, telling the stories as they go.

    It’s what started me researching. The US one is an NBC production, I’ve not seen many as it’s hard to get access in England, but they look as good as our version.

  • jack63kids

    I’m not sure how far you’ve watched into the series as yet, nor which episode you are referring. As I understand it each episode takes a theme and the first one, which is as far as I’ve got having heard I can access only this morning, was about people’s journey to become Americans, at least in part. To me that’s all part of what it means to be an American – but then I can say that being English myself. Have it got it so far wrong? Isn’t it the land of oportunity for all and that all have been welcome over the generations and being American is more than being born in the USA?
    I don’t think that Henry Gates Jnr has an axe to grind nor an agenda as such, as a Black-Irish American he does have a very individual and significant view to share. I sincerely hope to hear his story having Irish heritage myself, though no Black (that’s the English preferd term and apologise if that translate well) blood that I am aware of.

  • Linda H.

    I am very interested in geneology. My dad’s cousin & I have been trying to trace the family tree, but have only gotten so far. I would like to nominate these people for a future show.. Peggy Fleming, olympic skater; Rhonda Fleming, opera singer; & Senator Fleming, Louisana. It’s possible one or all could be my relative. We have been trying to find my great-great grandfather Fleming. We know he was in New York State but can’t find any census or anything else with his name on it. It may be that one of these people could help. Thank you.

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    Hello Tracey (I’m writing you in English because I don’t know if you speak Spanish). Your surname, Quezada, comes from Spain. Quezada or Quesada are just two ways to write the same surname. Before the first Spanish grammatique “S” sound could be written with “S” or “Z”. There is a town called Quesada, in the province of Jaén, in Andalucia (Southern Spain), from which the surname originates. Hope I’ve helped you.
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    I have come to the conclusion that this article and reader comments are quite important to my interests. To my knowledge, this is a good website to hunt down articles on topics like natural health. Can anyone here tell me where to locate more detailed posts on this topic, though? Thanks!

  • Steve

    My great great grandfather on my fathers side was a corporal in Custer’s army I have often wondered if there was a record of his actions and statements. he fought in over 68 battles across the east including Gettysburg and ended up dying in haws shop Virginia as grant went up the Carolina coast. This is a fascinating program.


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  • Foster Lee

    Dear Prof. Gates,
    You blew me away with this program I saw in Cairns. Love you to do a similar program in Australia about immigrants here who have done well in business and life. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your research and display of such depth of discovery that astounds me with the detail. Thank you again and hope to hear from you.

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  • Nancy Hill

    I have found all of Dr. Gates programs fascinating. My father was always working on the family history and as a child I found it very boring. There many stories I now wish I could hear again to know that my great grandparents homesteaded in Nebraska. The older one becomes the more the family history of DNA plays a part of who we are and from who we have come. I adopted my daughter from Romania and long to know about her family with most doors closing as we together persue (Who Am I?). Thank you for such excellent programs.

  • Will Yang

    Is it possible to download the whole presentation and show it to my colleagues? Thanks!

  • Hasker Nelson

    The work that you do inspired me to create a Facebook site devoted to the African American History of Greater Cincinnati. So far, over 110 stories, 27 of which are in video form.

    Keep up your fascinating work.

  • Paul walsky

    I am interested in talking with you or through email- or 410 627-9762. I hope that you are doing well.

  • Claudette Bartolomei

    I get pleasure from, lead to I found just what I used to be having a look for. You have ended my 4 day long hunt! God Bless you man. Have a nice day. Bye

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  • SteveLinta

    If so, as you say about intellectuals, sort of leaves you out of the ballgame doesn’t it A.D.Faried??? Shame you can’t see Socialism and Communism working hand in hand, with Liberalism and the Ivy League Educational Systems, that have given Affirmative Action as their primary reasons for being???? Walking “lock-stepped” and “to the Tune of the Marching Orders” prevail in your case, as in many others (simply called propaganda)…………………………………

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    I loved the documentary. I am an immigrant myself, I was born in Caracas, Venezuela and I am making history the kind of history you have presented on this program. Thank you! I wish I could tell my whole story too.

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