Now that we have easy and open access to DNA testing, family mysteries are often mysteries no more.
But for people across the globe, family trees remain an often murky subject.
Since 2012, the PBS series “Finding Your Roots,” hosted by Henry Louis Gates Jr., has illuminated the family trees of public figures including actors, artists, musicians, journalists, filmmakers and activists.
Gates, the Alphonse Fletcher university professor at Harvard University, is the director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard. With the scholar at the helm, the show has shed light on the family histories of New Jersey celebrities including Queen Latifah, Nathan Lane and Paul Rudd.
Some details are small revelations, like the fact that Rudd’s parents are second cousins. Others come as a complete surprise, like when Latifah gazed upon the 1792 document that freed her first ancestor from slavery (see video below).
“Finding Your Roots” is also known for drawing links between guests. Sure, he played the senator and former presidential candidate on “Saturday Night Live,” but Larry David and Bernie Sanders are also distant relations, something the show discovered.
Many episodes leave A-listers in tears.
Genetic genealogist CeCe Moore, an expert in finding the threads of ancestry through DNA, works on the series, as do genealogists Kimberly Morgan and Nick Sheedy, unearthing records and research from the United States and oceans beyond.
Next, to celebrate the show’s 10th season on the air, “Finding Your Roots” producers are looking for regular people — yes, all you non-celebrities out there — to feature on the show.
This will be the first time the series opens its resources up to fans and viewers who aren’t normally in the limelight.
The show’s ninth season, which will premiere in January, brings a look at the family trees of celebrities including Julia Roberts, Edward Norton, Danny Trejo, Claire Danes, Jeff Daniels, Viola Davis, David Duchovny, Tamera Mowry, Brian Cox, Carol Burnett, Niecy Nash, Cyndi Lauper and Billy Crudup.
Anyone interested in being featured on the show is asked to send in their family mysteries (see details below).
Applicants must describe the details in writing and upload a two- to three-minute horizontal (landscape) video in which they explain why they should be chosen for the show (fun/personality is encouraged).
To submit your family for consideration, you can go to findingyourrootscasting.com and fill out an application.
Applicants must be 21 or older, live in the United States, not have been convicted of a felony in the past 10 years, and not be a member of the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists or any other performing artist union or guild. See full casting terms here.
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