Finding Your Roots
Title card from the second season
Also known asFinding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
Written byHenry Louis Gates Jr.
Directed by
  • John Maggio
  • Jesse Sweet
  • Caitlin McNally
  • Jack Youngelson
  • Sabin Streeter
  • Julia Marchesi
Presented byHenry Louis Gates Jr.
ComposerMichael Bacon
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons10
No. of episodes97 (list of episodes)
Executive producerHenry Louis Gates Jr.
Running time51–53 minutes
Production companies
  • Kunhardt McGee Productions
  • Inkwell Films
  • Ark Media
Original release
ReleaseMarch 25, 2012 (2012-03-25) –
present (present)
Faces of America

Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is a documentary television series hosted by Henry Louis Gates Jr. that premiered on March 25, 2012, on PBS. In each episode, celebrities are presented with a "book of life" that is compiled with information researched by professional genealogists that allows them to view their ancestral histories, learn about familial connections and discover secrets about their lineage.

All episodes air on Tuesdays.[1][2] Season 10 began airing on January 2, 2024.[3]


The series uses traditional genealogical research (written records) and genetics (DNA testing) to discover the family history of well-known Americans. Genetic techniques include Y-chromosome DNA, mitochondrial DNA, and autosomal DNA analyses to infer both ancient and recent genetic relationships. The show's professionals typically spend hundreds of hours researching each guest.[4][5]

Each celebrity guest is given a book of life which contains all the information discovered about the guest's genealogy by researchers. Included in or within the book are comprehensive genetic results, a family tree that is as complete as paper research allows, copies of historical records used to assemble each tree and photos of newly found family members. In some episodes, particularly ones in which original DNA profiling research must be used to establish a past ancestor's parental link, guests are reunited with long lost relatives. However, in most episodes, each guest is predominantly shown seated opposite Gates as he guides them through their book of life. To show correlations between the guests' family stories, each episode cuts back and forth between two or three guest stories. To draw further correlations, Gates uses examples from his own genealogy quite frequently. Examples of this would be a grandmother of his having multiple children with a white man whose name she had never revealed, as well as Gates's membership into the Sons of the American Revolution.

In addition to celebrity guests, everyday people are sometimes featured in an episode to create a third or fourth story line. The non-celebrity guests are usually a group of peers. One example of this would be the episode in which Gates has his friends at his local barbershop take a DNA test to determine their ethnic makeup, each friend betting on their percentages of African, European, and Native American genetic heritage. Another episode uses a similar guessing game with students at a local school. Singular secondary guests include Robert Downey Sr. and Margarett Cooper, the latter being a friend of Gates's.[6]


Main article: List of Finding Your Roots episodes

SeasonEpisodesOriginally aired
First airedLast aired
110March 25, 2012 (2012-03-25)May 20, 2012 (2012-05-20)
210September 23, 2014 (2014-09-23)November 25, 2014 (2014-11-25)
310January 5, 2016 (2016-01-05)March 8, 2016 (2016-03-08)
410October 3, 2017 (2017-10-03)December 19, 2017 (2017-12-19)
510January 8, 2019 (2019-01-08)April 9, 2019 (2019-04-09)
616October 8, 2019 (2019-10-08)February 25, 2020 (2020-02-25)
710October 13, 2020 (2020-10-13)May 4, 2021 (2021-05-04)
810January 4, 2022 (2022-01-04)April 19, 2022 (2022-04-19)
910January 3, 2023 (2023-01-03)April 4, 2023 (2023-04-04)
1010January 2, 2024 (2024-01-02)April 9, 2024 (2024-04-09)



The series has seen two past incarnations on PBS, both of which were hosted by Henry Louis Gates Jr. In 2006 and 2008, the series African American Lives aired. Both seasons of the series consisted of a season-long storyline as well as an all African American cast. In 2010, Faces of America aired. Though it continued to use the season-long plot from the prior installment, it was the first installment to be hosted by Gates which included Americans of all ethnic and racial backgrounds. Starting with Finding Your Roots in 2012, the series changed from a season-long plot to having plots extending only within a single episode. In doing so, it has allowed the series to extend its number of episodes each season to ten, as opposed to the prior four episodes a season.[7]

Ben Affleck controversy

The show's third season was postponed by WNET after it was discovered that actor Ben Affleck had persuaded Gates to omit information about his slave-owning ancestors.[8][9][10] The series returned on January 5, 2016,[11] although "Roots of Freedom", the second-season episode featuring Affleck, was pulled from all forms of distribution by PBS.[12]

Critical reception

In 2016, Cal Thomas of The Baltimore Sun wrote that the show was "The most compelling television you will ever see."[13] In 2015, it was nominated for an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding News/Information – Series or Special.[14] Lauren Sarner of New York Post wrote, "Finding Your Roots has become a phenomenon."[15]

See also


  1. ^ "Season Six of "Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr." Premieres Fall 2019 and Airs Through Fall 2020 on PBS, Beginning October 8". The Futon Critic. July 29, 2019.
  2. ^ "TV Schedule". PBS.
  3. ^ "Finding Your Roots". PBS.
  4. ^ Williams, Beth (2012). "Genealogy Insider: Behind the Scenes with 'Finding Your Roots'". Family Tree Magazine. Retrieved July 9, 2021.
  5. ^ Hautzinger, Daniel (October 2, 2017). "How Genealogists Find Your Roots". WTTW. Retrieved July 9, 2021.
  6. ^ "Finding Your Roots – Episodes". PBS. Retrieved November 22, 2014.
  7. ^ "Finding Your Roots – About". PBS. Archived from the original on September 18, 2014. Retrieved September 16, 2014.
  8. ^ Allen, Nick (April 17, 2015). "Ben Affleck's slave-owning ancestor 'censored' from genealogy show". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved May 26, 2015.
  9. ^ Kirell, Andrew (April 18, 2015). "Ben Affleck Demanded PBS Suppress His Slave-Owning Ancestry". Mediaite. Retrieved May 26, 2015.
  10. ^ Koblin, John (June 24, 2015). "Citing Ben Affleck's 'Improper Influence,' PBS Suspends 'Finding Your Roots'". The New York Times. New York City. Retrieved June 25, 2015.
  11. ^ Guthrie, Marisa (October 19, 2015). "PBS' 'Finding Your Roots' Returns After Ben Affleck Scandal: "Hard Conversations," More Rigorous Process". The Hollywood Reporter. Los Angeles. Retrieved October 16, 2016.
  12. ^ "PBS: Ben Affleck 'Finding Your Roots' Episode Violated Standards". The Hollywood Reporter. Los Angeles. Associated Press. June 24, 2015. Retrieved October 27, 2018.
  13. ^ Thomas, Cal (January 9, 2016). "Roots and identity". The Baltimore Sun. Archived from the original on December 5, 2017. Retrieved December 26, 2019.
  14. ^ Washington, Arlene (February 6, 2015). "NAACP Image Awards: The Winners". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved July 8, 2021.
  15. ^ Sarner, Lauren (January 27, 2020). "How 'Finding Your Roots' became a cultural phenomenon". New York Post. Retrieved November 28, 2022.