Streep and other celebrities explore ancestry on TV show

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The Independent Online

Actresses Meryl Streep and Eva Longoria, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, Queen Noor of Jordan, director Mike Nichols, and authors Malcolm Gladwell, Louise Erdrich, and others appear on a new US television show, Faces of America, on PBS, the Public Broadcasting Network, to delve into their genetic past.

The four-part series explores the genealogy of participants with Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. Following the origins of their families' immigrant experience and using DNA in the research offered some surprising results in some cases.

Mike Nichols discovered the family tales of being related to Albert Einstein are in fact true. Queen Noor learned her grandfather Najeeb, a first-generation immigrant, was buried in Brooklyn and visited the gravestone for the first time. Figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi found out her grandfather served in the 100th Infantry Division, the only Japanese-American in his unit during World War II in Europe.

Gates, the show's narrator is the director of the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African-American Research at Harvard, founder of the genealogy website AfricanDNA.com, and the editor of The Root, a website on African-American news, culture and genealogy. His research into his roots reveals that he has more European than African ancestry.

Longoria, a Mexican-American, uncovered that she is 70 percent European, 27 percent Asian, and 3 percent African. When told that she has a genetic tie to Yo-Yo Ma, she joked, "He's Mexican?"

The series premieres February 10.

www.pbs.org/wnet/facesofamerica

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