Finding Your Roots Alanis Morissette and Ciara

Finding Your Roots Season 10: a mysterious NPE and Canadian genealogy

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is back! Finding Your Roots Season 10, Episode 1, “Born to Sing,” explores the family history of two famous pop singers: Alanis Morissette and Ciara.

Finding Your Roots has always been a wonderful platform for storytelling and history (see our 2021 blog post, "Why Finding Your Roots is great TV ... and great genealogy") but I particularly liked this episode for exploring Morissette’s Canadian roots and the startling DNA discovery researchers made for one of Ciara’s maternal ancestors.

African American migration north finding your roots season 10

Ciara’s paternal ancestors were sharecroppers in South Carolina before relocating to New York City at the height of the Harlem Renaissance.

On her mother’s side, there is a fascinating story about her great-grandfather’s origins, which could only be unraveled by DNA sleuthing. It was a stark reminder of the limitations of paper records in relation to NPEs - Non Paternity Events, also known as “Not Parent Expected” situations.

Even though Morrisette grew up in Ottawa, she once recorded an album in Hungarian. Now I know why: her mother’s family were Hungarian Jews, who were persecuted by the Nazis and the Russians, and eventually fled Europe.

Holocaust testimonial Alanis Morissette

On her father’s side, I loved seeing some of the sources researchers used, which ranged from French church records to a list of logging raft captains. Canadian genealogy documentation is a different world than the resources we use in the U.S.!

You can watch Episode 1 of Finding Your Roots Season 10 on your local PBS station. There is also an online video, but only through January 30. Season 10 episodes later this winter will include:

  • Dionne Warwick
  • Bob Odenkirk
  • Lena Dunham
  • LeVar Burton
  • Valerie Bertinelli
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