Did you watch “Faces of America” last night on PBS?
Harvard historian Henry Louis Gates, who’s hosting the four-part series, describes it as a show about immigration in the United States. (See clips in our previous blog post.)
If you missed it, you can watch it here.
You don’t see genealogical research happening, but that’s not really what this show is about. Instead, you see how family history shapes the lives of several well-known Americans of diverse ethnic backgrounds. Mario Batali became a chef after growing up on his Italian grandmother’s oxtail ravioli (which Gates prepares with Batali). Yo-yo Ma’s parents were struggling musicians from China. Louise Erdrich, who’s already researched her family tree, incorporates her maternal Chippewa heritage into her novels.
In last night’s episode, focused on immigrants in 20th-century America, Gates asks each person what they knew about their ancestors, and what family history means to them. He presents cast members with an article, photograph or record, sometimes revealing surprising information.
Figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi learned that her maternal grandfather was the only Asian in the 100th Infantry Division during World War II, and was decorated as the unit’s best soldier—while his wife and relatives were being imprisoned with other Japanese-Americans in internment camps.
My ears perked up during the previews for next week’s episode, about the “century of immigration,” when Gates tells Queen Noor of Jordan how her great-grandfather immigrated to America in 1891 from Damascus, Syria—where my paternal ancestors came from.
Read more about the cast and their family trees on the Faces of America website. You also can comment on the profiles and add stories from your own family history.
Related resources from Family Tree Magazine:
- Heritage research toolkits (these contain both Plus and free articles)
- Passenger Arrival Lists (free article)
- Heritage research guides (available as digital downloads) and our Passport to Europe CD from Family Tree Shop