Our genealogy can give us many answers about our roots and culture, highlighting aspects of our ancestry that were previously a mystery. In the case of American actor Edward Norton, new insights into his lineage have made old “family lore” a reality. On an episode of the PBS program, Finding Your Roots, the host Henry Louis Gates Jr. revealed that Norton is a descendant of Powhatan woman Pocahontas.
Born at the tail end of the 1590s and living into the early 1600s, Pocahontas is well-known for her involvement with the early English settlement in Jamestown, Virginia, and for saving the life of John Smith, according to legend. After being captured by the colonists, she married John Rolfe in 1614 and was brought to England, where she had one son named Thomas. Her life ended at the age of 21 from unknown causes. “I understand that was family lore,” Gates Jr. said in the episode. “Well, it is absolutely true.”
Actor Edward Norton discovered that Pocahontas is his 12th great-grandmother. “John Rolfe and Pocahontas got married on April 5, 1614. Shakespeare dies in 1616, just to put this in perspective,” Gates Jr. added. “Pocahontas died sometime in March 1617 in Grave's End, England, and John Rolfe died around March 1622.”
Other figures that Norton learned he was related to including his third great-grandfather, named John Winstead, who owned numerous slaves in North Carolina, including children aged as young as four. “The short answer is these things are uncomfortable. And you should be uncomfortable with them,” Norton says in response to this discovery during the episode. “It's not a judgment on you in your own life, but it's a judgment on the history of this country, and it needs to be acknowledged first and foremost and then it needs to be contended with.”
Actor Edward Norton discovered a little-known fact about his ancestry on the PBS series Finding Your Roots.
Apparently, the 53-year-old actor is a descendant of Powhatan woman Pocahontas. She is his 12th great-grandmother, PBS host Henry Louis Gates Jr. revealed.
Through a direct paper trail leading to Pocahontas and John Rolfes’ 1614 marriage certificate, @EdwardNorton learns that his family lore appears to be true. His 12th great-grandmother is Pocohantas!
— Henry Louis Gates Jr (@HenryLouisGates) January 2, 2023