Famous personalities explore their ancestry on ‘Finding Your Roots’

Today’s most compelling personalities discover the surprising stories buried within their own families in the sixth season of the critically acclaimed PBS series “Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.” The series airs Tuesdays at 7 p.m.

The sixth season of “Finding Your Roots” on PBS features 27 fascinating new guests who are game-changers in their fields, with family histories that illustrate the power and diversity of the human experience. Among them are actors Jeffrey Wright, Sigourney Weaver, Melissa McCarthy and Sterling K. Brown; groundbreaking director Jordan Peele; and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

In sharing their stories, “Finding Your Roots” uses every tool available, from cutting-edge DNA research to old-school genealogical sleuthing, to reveal long-buried secrets. Spanning the globe, the series compiles family trees that trace throughout the United States and Canada; Latin America and the Caribbean; and Germany, Poland, Ireland, Russia and more. Episode to episode, audiences will meet guests’ ancestors who were business people and bootleggers, war heroes and criminals, farmers and immigrants, the persecuted and the persevering under the most extraordinary circumstances. Together, the arc of each guest’s family personalizes history while emphasizing the human connections that unite us.

At the center of it all, guiding every discovery, is host and executive producer Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University and director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research.

“It’s part of a larger mission to inspire us all to seek out the stories of our ancestors — to see history as something that we are all a part of, that we all have a stake in — and, in realizing this, to help us arrive at a deeper understanding of what it means to be part of the human family,” Henry Louis Gates, Jr. said. “Our series strives to show how all Americans are related, despite our present divisive politics, at the most fundamental levels of all: through our families, through our immigrant experiences, whether forced or voluntary, and at the level of the genome.”

This fall, enjoy new season six episodes as well as favorites from past seasons. More new episodes will come later this season.

Jan. 7: “Homecomings”

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. helps actor Sterling K. Brown, comedian Sasheer Zamata and musician Jon Batiste discover the unexpected places their ancestors called home, providing new insight into the people and places that made them who they are today. Watch via Passport.

Jan. 14: “This Land is My Land”

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. reveals the unexpected family trees of entertainer Queen Latifah and actor Jeffrey Wright, redefining their sense of the black experience — and challenging preconceptions about America’s past. Watch via Passport.

Jan. 21: “Beyond the Pale”

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. explores the Jewish heritages of actor Jeff Goldblum, radio host Terry Gross and comedian Marc Maron, uncovering previously unknown stories that show each shares much more with their ancestors than a religious tradition. Watch via Passport.

Jan. 28: “Secrets & Lies”

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. helps actors Sigourney Weaver, Justina Machado and Amy Ryan unearth surprising revelations about  their family histories, forever altering how they see themselves. Watch via Passport.

Feb. 4 at 9 p.m.: “Science Pioneers”

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. traces the family trees of Francis Collins, Shirley Ann Jackson and Harold Varmus – three pioneering scientists who’ve made dramatic contributions to our understanding of the world, while knowing little about their own ancestry. Note special time following the State of the Union address. Watch online.

Feb. 11: “Slave Trade”

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. journeys with film director Ava DuVernay, actor S. Epatha Merkerson, and musician Questlove to the unexpected places where their ancestors were scattered by slavery, upending their notions of African American history. Watch online.

Feb. 18: “Italian Roots”

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. explores the roots of talk show-host Jimmy Kimmel and actors Marisa Tomei and John Turturro, introducing them to ancestors who made immense sacrifices to bring their families from Italy to America. Watch online.

Feb. 25: “Criminal Kind”

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. explores the roots of actor Laura Linney and journalists Lisa Ling and Soledad O’Brien – telling them stories of tricksters, scoundrels and outright criminals who nevertheless laid the groundwork for their success. Watch online.

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