The popular PBS series Finding Your Roots, hosted by Henry Louis Gates Jr., has given many celebrities moments of shock and awe when finding out they are the direct descendants of hoodlums, harlots, and whatever other shocking shit that keeps PBS’ ratings high. For example, Tina Fey’s great-grandfather was one of Benjamin Franklin’s closest drinking buddies. And Larry David is a distant relative of Bernie Sanders, which none of us will be able to unsee now because TWINS! But they can all tuck their boring little DNA discoveries away forever because Edward Norton wins since his 12th great-grandmother was the one and only Pocahontas.
According to People, Edward made this fascinating discovery during the season premiere of Finding Your Roots (which also features Julia Roberts) where he relayed to Henry how his family always spoke of being related to Pocahontas, yet they never did the research to find out if it was true. That’s when Henry grinned like a bobcat and stated, “Go paint with the colors of the wind my child” by admitting he was, indeed, the distant grandson of Pocahontas and her much older
captor husband John Rolfe.
“I understand that was family lore,” Gates Jr. told Norton, who said he had grown up hearing family tales that they were related to the Indigenous figure, in the episode. “Well, it is absolutely true.”
“John Rolfe and Pocahontas got married on April 5, 1614. Shakespeare dies in 1616, just to put this in perspective,” the host continued, adding context to the time period. “Pocahontas died sometime in March 1617 in Grave’s End, England, and John Rolfe died around March 1622.”
Through a direct paper trail leading to Pocahontas and John Rolfes’ 1614 marriage certificate, @EdwardNorton learns that his family lore appears to be true. His 12th great-grandmother is Pocohantas!
— Henry Louis Gates Jr (@HenryLouisGates) January 2, 2023
Before Edward had an opportunity to break out his DVD box set of Pocahontas, complete with soundtrack and sing-a-long lyrics Henry had one more surprise for him, and it wasn’t a good one. Edward also discovered that one of his great-grandfathers was a plantation-owning proponent of free labor, which Edward was not very proud of.
Elsewhere in the episode, Norton learned that a third great-grandfather of his named John Winstead was recorded as having owned enslaved people in the 1850 North Carolina census, a revelation from Norton’s family’s past that the actor called “uncomfortable.”
“The short answer is these things are uncomfortable, and you should be uncomfortable with them, everybody should be uncomfortable with it,” Norton told Gates Jr. after learning of the census count. “It’s not a judgement on you and your own life, but it’s a judgment on the history of this country and it needs to be acknowledged…”
With all of this new information, Edward’s latest rival, Janeane Garofalo, will probably write a scathing comment on PBS’ Finding Your Roots page somewhere along the lines of “Your family has been ruining lives for generations!” But the real trend that will come from this is the multitude of celebs who will sign up to be profiled so they, too, can discover which historical figures from Disney movies they’re related to.