Producers added a twist this year: Everyday folks could apply to have their own pasts explored along with those of 11 VIPs, including actor Don Cheadle, comedian Chris Rock and Olympic athlete Jackie Joyner-Kersee. Of the more than 2,000 applicants, producers selected Kathleen Henderson, a college administrator in Dayton, Ohio.
A week or so ago, Henderson told me a legend her family proudly exchanges at reunions about the source of their Woodbridge surname. “When slavery ended, our ancestor left the plantation and struck out on his on,” she said, explaining that the story got more elaborate depending whom you asked.
“He wanted to shed himself of the remnants of slavery, so he took nothing, especially not the master’s last name. After he left the plantation, the first thing he came across was a wooden bridge, so that’s where the name came from.”
You’ll have to wait until the show airs to find out this freedman’s identity and the truth behind the family legend.
Henderson also says the show’s researchers dug up some information on her father’s mother that “blew my mind.”
On the “African-American Lives 2” Web site, you can meet Henderson, quiz yourself on source documents the researchers used, hear from genetic genealogy experts, and see the show participants’ ancestral events plotted on a historical timeline.
Henderson sees what she learned as a springboard for more discoveries. “It’s part of a chapter, or it’s the first edition. It answered a lot, but it set up more questions for us.”
Check local air times on the show’s Web site.