American actor Edward Norton has discovered that the real Pocahontas, the fictionalized and mythologized 17th-century daughter of a Native American chief, is his 12th great-grandmother.
The Oscar-nominated star learned of his family connection to the woman who married Virginia settler John Rolfe on Tuesday’s episode of the PBS genealogy history show “Finding Your Roots.”
Historian and broadcaster Henry Louis Gates Jr. confirmed the long-running family rumor to be fact, telling Norton, “You have a direct paper record, without a doubt, of a connection to your 12th great-grandmother and great-grandfather, John Rolfe and Pocahontas. ”
According to Gates, the couple married on April 5, 1614 in Jamestown, Virginia – at a time when William Shakespeare was still alive. He added that documents revealed that Pocahontas died three years later in Gravesend, England, while Rolfe died around March 1622.
“It just makes you realize what a little…piece of human history you are,” Norton remarked after the reveal.
Pocahontas welcomed English settlers to today’s United States in the early 17th century. Legend has it that she saved Captain John Smith’s life, stopping his execution by laying her head on his.
The show, which traces the ancestral history of celebrities, also revealed that Norton’s third great-grandfather, John Winstead, owned a family of slaves that included a 55-year-old man, a 37-year-old woman and five young girls, ages 4, 6, 8, 9 and 10.
Norton, 53, who said he researched his own ancestry before his appearance on ‘Finding Your Roots’, said that part of the story did not sit well with him.
Asked what it was like to see a census confirming his relative was a slave owner, the ‘Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery’ and ‘Fight Club’ actor said, “The short answer is that these things are uncomfortable. And you should be uncomfortable with them.
“It is not a judgment on you in your own life, but it is a judgment on the history of this country and it must be recognized first and then it must be fought against.”
Norton went on to say that he personalized the census details and “when you read ‘eight-year-old slave,’ you just want to die.”
The series’ ninth-season premiere also delved into the lineage of “Pretty Woman” actress Julia Roberts.