The WORST Episodes of Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
Every episode ever - ranked by fan votes!
Last Updated: Jun 15, 2021
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.
#1 - Criminal Kind
Season 6 - Episode 10 - Aired Feb 25, 2020
Guests: Laura Linney, Lisa Ling, Soledad O'Brien. In Loving Memory: Johni Cerny, Lead Genealogist, Finding Your Roots. 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. (Contains content from previous episodes: Laura Linney originally appeared in S05E08. Lisa Ling originally appeared in S05E03. Soledad O'Brien originally appeared in S03E02.)
#2 - Homecomings
Season 6 - Episode 3 - Aired Jan 7, 2020
Guests: Sterling K. Brown, Sasheer Zamata, Jon Batiste. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. helps actor Sterling K. Brown, comedian Sasheer Zamata and musician Jon Batiste discover the unexpected places their ancestors once called home, providing new insight into the people and places that made them who they are today.
#3 - Science Pioneers
Season 6 - Episode 7 - Aired Feb 4, 2020
Guests: Francis Collins, Shirley Ann Jackson, Harold E. Varmus. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. traces the family trees of Francis Collins, Shirley Ann Jackson, and Harold E. Varmus — three pioneering scientists who’ve made dramatic contributions to our understanding of the world, all the while knowing little about their own ancestry.
#4 - The Eye of the Beholder
Season 5 - Episode 9 - Aired Apr 2, 2019
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.
#5 - Secrets & Lies
Season 6 - Episode 6 - Aired Jan 28, 2020
Guests: Sigourney Weaver, Justina Machado, Amy Ryan. 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.
#6 - Fashion's Roots
Season 6 - Episode 11 - Aired Oct 13, 2020
Guests: Diane von Furstenberg, Narciso Rodriguez, RuPaul. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. steps into the world of fashion and meets three icons of style — Diane Von Furstenberg, Narciso Rodriguez, and RuPaul Charles — introducing ancestors who were just as audacious as they are.
#7 - War Stories
Season 6 - Episode 13 - Aired Nov 10, 2020
Guests: Kehinde Wiley, Julianne Moore, Bill Hader. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. explores the roots of actor Julianne Moore, comedian Bill Hader, and painter Kehinde Wiley, revealing how their ancestors’ military service left an indelible mark both on their families and on their country. (S03E06 was also titled "War Stories." Kehinde Wiley originally appeared in S05E09. Julianne Moore originally appeared in S03E06. Bill Hader originally appeared in S03E04.)
#8 - The New World
Season 7 - Episode 7 - Aired Apr 13, 2021
Guests: John Lithgow and Maria Hinojosa. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. traces ancestors of actor John Lithgow and journalist Maria Hinojosa who thrived in North America long before the birth of the United States.
#9 - Roots in Politics
Season 5 - Episode 6 - Aired Feb 12, 2019
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.
#10 - Italian Roots
Season 6 - Episode 9 - Aired Feb 18, 2020
Guests: Jimmy Kimmel, Marisa Tomei, John Turturro. 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. (Contains content from previous episodes: Jimmy Kimmel originally appeared in S03E04. Marisa Tomei originally appeared in S05E04. John Turturro originally appeared in S04E05.)
#11 - Kevin Bacon - Kyra Sedgwick
Season 1 - Episode 4 - Aired Apr 8, 2012
What do Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick have in common? They are both famous actors and both descend from prominent American families that have been in this country since its inception. But they share something else, too: both had ancestors who were early opponents of slavery. Bacon's Quaker ancestors repudiated slavery long before the rest of the country, in 1780. And Sedgwick's ancestor Theodore Sedgwick argued the freedom case of Elizabeth Freeman, also known as "Mumbet," in 1781 -- which helped bring an end to slavery in Massachusetts. We reveal this fact - and many others - to Sedgwick and Bacon in this episode, and learn quite a bit about slavery in the North in the process.
#12 - Funny Business
Season 4 - Episode 10 - Aired Dec 19, 2017
Garrison Keillor, Amy Schumer and Aziz Ansari, three guests who have found fame mining their family stories for comedy learn about ancestors who overcame immense suffering.
#13 - Hard Times
Season 5 - Episode 8 - Aired Feb 26, 2019
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.
#14 - Breaking Silences
Season 6 - Episode 15 - Aired Jan 5, 2021
Guests: Gayle King, Jordan Peele, Issa Rae. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. explores the family secrets of journalist Gayle King, film director Jordan Peele, and comedian Issa Rae, introducing them to ancestors who raise profound questions about the shape and meaning of their family trees.
#15 - Slave Trade
Season 6 - Episode 8 - Aired Feb 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.)
#16 - Laughing on the Inside
Season 7 - Episode 10 - Aired May 4, 2021
Guests: Lewis Black and Roy Wood, Jr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. provides comedians Lewis Black and Roy Wood, Jr. with accounts of hardship in their family trees which may have led them to each find humor in adversity.
#17 - War Stories
Season 3 - Episode 6 - Aired Feb 9, 2016
Senator John McCain and Oscar winning actresses Julianne Moore and Patricia Arquette sit down with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. to look at the military service in their families.
#18 - The Shirts on Their Backs
Season 7 - Episode 4 - Aired Feb 9, 2021
Guests: Tony Shalhoub and Christopher Meloni. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. reveals the immigrant roots of actors Tony Shalhoub and Christopher Meloni, introducing ancestors who came to America to build a better life.
#19 - No Laughing Matter
Season 5 - Episode 7 - Aired Feb 19, 2019
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.
#20 - John Legend - Wanda Sykes - Margarett Cooper
Season 1 - Episode 9 - Aired May 13, 2012
#21 - This Land is My Land
Season 6 - Episode 4 - Aired Jan 14, 2020
Guests: Queen Latifah, Jeffrey Wright. 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.
#22 - Flight
Season 6 - Episode 14 - Aired Nov 17, 2020
Guests: Lupita Nyong’o, Lidia Bastianich, Scarlett Johansson. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. meets actors Scarlett Johansson and Lupita Nyong’o, and chef Lidia Bastianich — three women whose families crisscrossed the globe to escape oppression and find opportunity, leaving them with questions about their relatives who stayed behind. (Lupita Nyong’o originally appeared in S04E07. Lidia Bastianich originally appeared is S03E09. Scarlett Johansson originally appeared in S04E05.)
#23 - In Search of Freedom
Season 3 - Episode 3 - Aired Jan 19, 2016
Learn how the ancestors of Maya Rudolph, Shonda Rhimes and Keenen Ivory Wayans struggled for freedom, and how each of these cultural trailblazers gain a new understanding of how they fit into this proud trajectory.
#24 - The Pioneers
Season 3 - Episode 8 - Aired Feb 23, 2016
Discover how Neil Patrick Harris, Gloria Steinem and Sandra Cisneros are connected to pioneers who broke new ground and paved the way for their modern day descendants to continue shaping our culture.
#25 - All in the Family
Season 5 - Episode 10 - Aired Apr 9, 2019
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.