Finding Your Roots - Season 5 Premiers January 8th

Finding Your Roots, hosted by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., returns to the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) for Season 5, starting on Tuesday, January 8th, 2019.


Season five of Finding Your Roots will feature an array of celebrated guests who are cultural trailblazers with fascinating family stories, including Academy Award winner Marisa Tomei; Emmy and Golden Globe Award winners Felicity Huffman, Laura Linney and S. Epatha Merkerson; and actors Michael K. Williams, Andy Samberg, Chloe Sevigny and Kal Penn. Season Five also includes superstar author George R.R. Martin; acclaimed journalists Christiane Amanpour, Ann Curry, Joe Madison and Lisa Ling; bestselling author and Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg; TV hosts Seth Meyers and Michael Strahan; artists Marina Abramovic and Kehinde Wiley; politicians Marco Rubio, Tulsi Gabbard and Paul Ryan; Academy Award-winning filmmakers Alejandro Innaritu and Michael Moore; and comedians Tig Notaro and Sarah Silverman.

5 Amazing New Stories in Season 5

According to AARP, as in previous seasons, there are some pretty emotional stories. Here are Gates top 5 emotional moments from season 5.

Unknown mom found

Even private investigators couldn’t help ex-SNL comic Andy Samberg find the biological parents of his mother, Marjorie, who was adopted. But in the Jan. 8 premiere, Gates surprises Andy and Marjorie with a photo ... of Marjorie’s long-lost mother. “Andy’s mom has a speech impediment, so she signs,” says Gates. “She let out a moan of anguish, combined with sublime exhilaration — it’s one of the most haunting things that I have ever heard. Andy and I just froze while she processed the fact that we had found her mother. And then we found her father, too. After all these years.”

Speechless speaker

Former House Speaker Paul Ryan, whose family fled Ireland’s massive famine in 1851, is Catholic. So he's a little thrown when, in episode 7, DNA tests show he’s 3 percent Ashkenazi Jewish. “You could have knocked [Ryan] over with a feather,” says Gates. “He was very proud of it. He said, ‘Are you sure?!’” 

Mistaken identity

For real-life drama straight out of a soap opera, see episode 10. “The hardest thing I ever had to do,” says Gates, “was to call Joe Madison [Gates’ friend, the radio personality] and tell him, ‘The man you call your father is not your biological father — your biological father is someone else.” Sensitive to Madison’s privacy and psychological well-being, Gates let Madison know he could pull out of the show. “Without missing a beat, he said, ‘I want to know who it is and I want to stay in the show.” Madison got yet another shock: His biological grandfather was one of the victims of the government’s infamous Tuskegee experiment, which intentionally deprived treatment to syphilis patients to observe their symptoms. When he discovered this — on camera —  “Joe broke down and cried,” Gates says. 

The Big Uneasy

In episode 9, Gates also breaks some rough news to standup comic Tig Notaro: Her great-great-grandfather, the long-ago mayor of New Orleans, was assassinated in a bar in the French Quarter. 

Great-Grandpa Gates

Fans of Finding know that Gates has long been on what he calls his own “highly personal” mission to uncover the identity of his paternal great-grandfather. After all, Gates’ fascination with ancestry was ignited when he was 9, after he discovered his great-grandmother Jane’s obituary under the headline “Jane Gates: An Estimable Colored Woman.” And years ago, DNA results proved that his mysterious great-grandfather was Irish. But when the victorious experts unveil the love of former slave Jane, “it’s a total shock,” says Gates, teary-eyed. “They even show me the guy’s obituary. I’m going to have that framed and put it right by Jane’s.”

Season 5 Schedule

Following is the broadcast schedule for the new season of Finding Your Roots on PBS:

Episode 1 | Grandparents and Other Strangers
Tuesday, January 8, 8/7c

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. helps actor Andy Samberg and author George R. R. Martin answer some family mysteries when DNA detective work uncovers new branches of their family trees. The DNA analysis upends family history and reveals new relatives.

Episode 2 | Mystery Men
Tuesday, January 15, 8/7c

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. helps actors Felicity Huffman and Michael K. Williams discover a wealth of hidden family history. Both grew up knowing little about their biological fathers, and seeing their lost ancestry restored proves deeply empowering.

Episode 3 | Reporting on the Reporters
Tuesday, January 22, 8/7c

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. shows journalists Christiane Amanpour, Ann Curry and Lisa Ling that the stories within their own family trees are every bit as compelling as the news stories they have been covering for the world.

Episode 4 | Dreaming of a New Land
Premieres Tuesday, January 29, 10/9c

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. explores with Marisa Tomei, Sheryl Sandberg and Kal Penn the tremendous challenges faced by their immigrant forebears. From Italy, Russia and India to America, their histories show success could take generations to achieve.

Episode 5 | Freedom Tales
Tuesday, February 5, 8/7c

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. delves deep into the roots of two African-American guests, actor S. Epatha Merkerson and athlete and television personality Michael Strahan. Both discover unexpected stories that challenge assumptions about black history.

Episode 6 | Roots in Politics
Tuesday, February 12, 8/7c

Roots in Politics – Henry Louis Gates, Jr. explores the diverse family histories of politicians Paul Ryan, Tulsi Gabbard and Marco Rubio. They each see a shared vision of the great American melting pot reflected in their ancestors’ stories.

Episode 7 | No Laughing Matter
Tuesday, February 19, 8/7c

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. shows comedians Seth Meyers, Tig Notaro and Sarah Silverman that their family trees are filled with people whose struggles laid the groundwork for their success. Gates also reveals to each one news of an unexpected DNA cousin.

Episode 8 | Hard Times
Tuesday, February 26, 8/7c

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. explores the family stories of filmmaker Michael Moore and actors Laura Linney and Chloë Sevigny—three people whose distant ancestors overcame great hardships in ways that resonate with their lives today.

Episode 9 | The Eye of the Beholder
Tuesday, April 2, 8/7c

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. shares the family histories of director Alejandro G. Iñárritu, iconoclastic performance artist Marina Abramović and painter Kehinde Wiley. These visionary artists find their identities challenged—and affirmed.

Episode 10 | All in the Family
Premieres Tuesday, April 9, 8/7c

The family stories of actor Ty Burrell, and radio host Joe Madison. Also a look at how a summer camp for children is using genetic genealogy to help young people better understand their burgeoning identities.


Would you like to find your roots? I can help. I’m Kimberlie Guerrieri and I am a Certified Genealogist with more than 15 years of experience assisting people to discover their family histories and solve some pretty cool mysteries. Contact me for a FREE discovery call to discuss your goals and let’s get started!