The BEST episodes of Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

Every episode of Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. ever, ranked from best to worst by thousands of votes from fans of the show. The best episodes of Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.!

Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is the 12th and latest series from the renowned cultural critic and Harvard scholar. In this 10-part series, Professor Gates continues the quest he begun in African American Lives 1 and 2 and Faces of America delving into the genealogy and genetics of an all new group of famous Americans. The series combines history and science in a fascinating exploration of race, family, and identity in today's America. Each hour features a different pair of celebrity guests, who are bound together by an intimate, sometimes hidden link, whether it be as old friends, through long-lost relatives, or even through a common ancestral past.

Last Updated: 1/22/2023Network:PBS
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Things We Don't Discuss
star
9.50
2 votes

#1 - Things We Don't Discuss

Season 8 - Episode 4 - Aired 1/25/2022

Guests: Pamela Adlon and Kathryn Hahn. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. works with Pamela Adlon and Kathryn Hahn, two guests whose family trees were obscured by scandals, to discover the truth about their ancestors.

Watch Now:Amazon
Mexican Roots
star
9.00
2 votes

#2 - Mexican Roots

Season 8 - Episode 5 - Aired 2/1/2022

Guests: Melissa Villaseñor and Mario Lopez. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. explores the deep Mexican roots of talk show host Mario Lopez and comedian Melissa Villaseñor, uncovering ancestors stretching back to the 1500s. Weaving together stories of migratory farmers, Spanish Conquistadors and Native Americans, Gates conjures up personal histories of diverse, sometimes conflicting, elements.

Watch Now:Amazon
Country Roots
star
8.75
4 votes

#3 - Country Roots

Season 7 - Episode 6 - Aired 2/23/2021

Guests: Clint Black and Rosanne Cash. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. uncovers the remarkably diverse backgrounds of country music icons Clint Black and Rosanne Cash.

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Activists Roots
star
8.60
5 votes

#4 - Activists Roots

Season 8 - Episode 3 - Aired 1/11/2022

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. welcomes Brittany Packnett Cunningham and Anita Hill, two guests who made profound sacrifices for social justice, and helps them discover the ancestors who made sacrifices for them.

Watch Now:Amazon
Born Champions
star
8.56
16 votes

#5 - Born Champions

Season 2 - Episode 2 - Aired 9/30/2014

Billie Jean King, Derek Jeter and Rebecca Lobo learn about their family histories. King discovers that her grandmother was an orphan; Derek Jeter investigates his ancestors' lives as slaves; and Lobo finds out that an ancestor was forced to flee Spain because of his democratic ideals.

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No Irish Need Apply
star
8.56
9 votes

#6 - No Irish Need Apply

Season 7 - Episode 3 - Aired 2/2/2021

Guests: Jane Lynch and Jim Gaffigan. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. explores the roots of actor Jane Lynch and comedian Jim Gaffigan, revealing the Irish American experience through their families.

Watch Now:Amazon
Grandparents and Other Strangers
star
8.50
12 votes

#7 - Grandparents and Other Strangers

Season 5 - Episode 1 - Aired 1/8/2019

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. helps actor/comedian Andy Samberg and author George R. R. Martin answer some family mysteries.

Watch Now:Amazon
Slave Trade
star
8.50
4 votes

#8 - Slave Trade

Season 6 - Episode 8 - Aired 2/11/2020

Guests: Ava DuVernay, S. Epatha Merkeson, Questlove. 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—and their own family trees. (Contains content from previous episodes: Ava DuVernay previously appeared in S04E04. S. Epatha Merkeson previously appeared in S05E05. Questlove previously appeared in S04E09.)

Watch Now:Amazon
Children of Exile
star
8.50
6 votes

#9 - Children of Exile

Season 8 - Episode 2 - Aired 1/4/2022

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. retraces the ancestral journeys of David Chang and Raúl Esparza, whose families fled their homelands, leading them to find lost parts of themselves along the way.

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Forgotten Journeys
star
8.50
4 votes

#10 - Forgotten Journeys

Season 8 - Episode 7 - Aired 2/15/2022

Guests: Lena Waithe and John Leguizamo. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. helps John Leguizamo and Lena Waithe retrace the paths of their ancestors, uncovering crucial pieces of their own identities that were lost on the journey to America.

Watch Now:Amazon
Freedom Tales
star
8.47
15 votes

#11 - Freedom Tales

Season 5 - Episode 5 - Aired 2/5/2019

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.

Watch Now:Amazon
Immigrant Nation
star
8.46
26 votes

#12 - Immigrant Nation

Season 4 - Episode 5 - Aired 10/31/2017

In this episode, three guests explore the tremendous challenges faced by their immigrant forebears. On her mother’s family tree, Scarlett Johansson ponders “what if” as she learns that while her Jewish great-grandfather became a grocer in NYC, his brother in Poland was lost to the Warsaw ghetto, along with his family. Turning to her father’s Danish roots, Johansson — a newly-minted Danish citizen herself — learns that her paternal great-grandfather was in fact a Swedish immigrant who came to Denmark as a manual laborer, leaving behind roots in Sweden that go back to 15th century nobility. Paul Rudd follows his roots from Eastern Europe and Russia to England, where his grandfather changed his name from “Rudnitsky”and signed up to fight in World War II; along the way, Rudd learns that anti-Semitic movements in England became motivators for both sides of the family to leave for America. John Turturro sees the details of his mother’s early years in an orphanage as her Italian immigrant father struggled to make ends meet in Brooklyn, only to encounter massive prejudice in the wake of an inter-racial marriage. Turturro also learns about the harsh experiences of his father and grandparents —in both America and Italy — and reflects on what he gained from their sacrifices. In the end, each guest gains a greater understanding of how their immigrant ancestors laid the groundwork for their success.

Watch Now:Amazon
Mayor Cory Booker - Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.)
star
8.42
24 votes

#13 - Mayor Cory Booker - Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.)

Season 1 - Episode 2 - Aired 3/25/2012

In this episode, we feature two African American politicians from different generations and opposite backgrounds. John Lewis grew up in a sharecropping family in rural Georgia, while Cory Booker was raised in an affluent, all-white New Jersey suburb. Although both men have devoted their lives to the betterment of African-American people, neither of them knows much about their own ancestors. In this episode, we introduce Booker to his white great-grandfather, a man he never knew, and move Lewis to tears over the extraordinary ambitions and accomplishments of his slave ancestors..

The Melting Pot
star
8.41
17 votes

#14 - The Melting Pot

Season 2 - Episode 5 - Aired 10/21/2014

Chef Tom Colicchio learns the hardships his family endured in Northern Italy; chef Ming Tsai traces his roots back 2,000 years; chef Aarón Sánchez learns his Mexican roots include Spaniards, Africans and Native Americans.

Watch Now:Amazon
Against All Odds
star
8.40
10 votes

#15 - Against All Odds

Season 7 - Episode 2 - Aired 1/26/2021

Guests: Andy Cohen and Nina Totenberg. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. introduces media personality Andy Cohen and radio journalist Nina Totenberg to ancestors who were determined to survive.

Watch Now:Amazon
Barbara Walters - Geoffrey Canada
star
8.39
18 votes

#16 - Barbara Walters - Geoffrey Canada

Season 1 - Episode 3 - Aired 4/1/2012

What's in a name? Well, a lot, at least when it comes to piecing together your family history. For former slaves, choosing a last name was one of their first acts of freedom. For Jewish immigrants, it was a way to fit in their new country. Whatever the reason for a name change, it can make the process of learning about one's ancestors difficult, if not impossible. In this episode, we unearth missing links in the family histories of media legend Barbara Walters and educational superstar Geoffrey Canada. Walters did not know her father's real last name. Canada did not know the name of his grandfather. Both of them had been unable to access their history... until now.

Watch Now:Amazon
Family Reunions
star
8.38
26 votes

#17 - Family Reunions

Season 3 - Episode 7 - Aired 2/16/2016

Uncover family mysteries about two legends of hip hop, Sean Combs and LL Cool J, through the use of DNA technology that reveals information that shakes their very foundations.

Watch Now:Amazon
The Vanguard
star
8.35
20 votes

#18 - The Vanguard

Season 4 - Episode 4 - Aired 10/24/2017

vTa-Nehisi Coates, Ava DuVernay and Janet Mock, three guests who have helped to redefine Black America in the last decade find their identities challenged as they learn about their family origins.

Watch Now:Amazon
Relatives We Never Knew We Had
star
8.35
20 votes

#19 - Relatives We Never Knew We Had

Season 4 - Episode 8 - Aired 11/21/2017

Téa Leoni and Gaby Hoffman, two guests whose lives have been shaped by family mysteries are introduced to biological ancestors they never knew they had thanks to genetic detective work.

Watch Now:Amazon
The Stories We Tell
star
8.35
26 votes

#20 - The Stories We Tell

Season 3 - Episode 1 - Aired 1/5/2016

The Season 3 premiere features Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, actor Ty Burrell and artist Kara Walker, who learn how the legacy of slavery has helped shape them.

Watch Now:Amazon
Hollywood Royalty
star
8.33
9 votes

#21 - Hollywood Royalty

Season 6 - Episode 1 - Aired 10/8/2019

Guests: Isabella Rossellini, Anjelica Huston, Mia Farrow. Three actors born into Hollywood royalty discover branches of their family trees that have been hidden from the public eye--and meet a cast of characters every bit as dramatic as the people they themselves have played on camera.

Watch Now:Amazon
Our American Storytellers
star
8.29
21 votes

#22 - Our American Storytellers

Season 2 - Episode 3 - Aired 10/7/2014

Ken Burns learns that his Southern ancestors include Confederate soldiers and a slave owner; Anderson Cooper learns that an ancestor on his father's side was killed by one of his slaves; and Anna Deavere Smith learns about her great-grandfather, who was a free black man and former conductor on the Underground Railroad.

Watch Now:Amazon
Our People, Our Traditions
star
8.25
12 votes

#23 - Our People, Our Traditions

Season 2 - Episode 7 - Aired 11/4/2014

Tony Kushner learns how the Holocaust impacted his ancestors; Carole King delves into the origins of her family name; and Alan Dershowitz discovers that an Hassidic synagogue started by his great-grandfather played a secret role in World War II.

Watch Now:Amazon
The British Invasion
star
8.24
17 votes

#24 - The British Invasion

Season 2 - Episode 8 - Aired 11/11/2014

Deepak Chopra, Sting and Sally Field explore the British influence in their family histories.

Watch Now:Amazon
Maps of Stars
star
8.23
31 votes

#25 - Maps of Stars

Season 3 - Episode 10 - Aired 3/8/2016

Learn how Dustin Hoffman and Mia Farrow, who last shared the screen together in 1969, also share a history of tragic deaths in their families that played major roles in shaping future generations.

Watch Now:Amazon

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