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Who Do You Think You Are?: Gwyneth Paltrow

April 01, 2011 06:29 PM by Shayla Perry

This week on NBC’s Who Do You Think You Are?, Oscar-winning actress Gwyneth Paltrow embarks on an unexpectedly spiritual journey through her family tree. What did she find out?

Gwyneth Paltrow was born in Los Angeles, California to actress Blythe Danner and producer Bruce Paltrow.

Wanting to know more about both sides of her family, Gwyneth begins with her mother, and searches for the family’s link to Barbados.

The Oscar-winning actress starts her search at the New York Public Library, armed with photos of her great grandmother given to her by her mother.

At the library, they find the obituary of Ida Danner, and the names of her parents. Though Ida wasn’t born in Barbados as she thought, Gwyneth is able to find her parents through Census records, and learns that both of them were from the West Indies.

Searching passenger lists on Ancestry.com, Paltrow locates Ida’s mother and aunt, who were coming to the United States on a commercial sailor ship headed to New York. The women were the ship’s only passengers, and to find out why an 18-year-old Rosamond Stout and her sister traveled to the U.S., Gwyneth must go to Barbados.

In Barbados, the actress meets with a genealogist and they search for Rosamond, finding her baptismal records. According to the documents, Rosamond’s father was a merchant-clerk, which lets her know that her family was middle class, so it wasn’t likely that Rosamond left her family for financial reasons.

In another document, they find that by 13, Rosamond was an orphan, as both of her parents had died.

Meeting with a professor, Gwyneth shows him the records she’s found on her great-grandmother, and he informs her that Rosamond and her sister likely chose to travel on a commercial ship because it was cheaper. But why were they leaving?

Due to the emancipation of slaves in Barbados, Rosamond, who formerly worked as a seamstress, was suddenly competing with a new population for jobs. With no work, no parents, and no prospects for husbands, the two young ladies set sail for the United States to look for new opportunities.

Back in New York City, Gwyneth is now on the search for information about her paternal grandfather. Paltrow remembers stories that her grandfather, Buster, often told her of his harsh upbringing, but to learn more, she begins with her aunt.

From her aunt, the actress learns that Buster’s mother, also named Ida, was a hoarder, and never cooked for her family. Oddly, Ida went to college — Hunter College — and was training to become a teacher.

Ida Hyman, who maintained a B average in school, was absent for 27 days, and sadly was discharged early without graduating.

After further searching through Census records, Gwyneth notices that Ida’s mother and brother are missing. So what happened to them? And did this have anything to do with Ida’s many absences from school?

She is then presented with both of their death certificates, which indicate that Ida’s mother’s death was due to liver damage, and just two months later, her brother died.

Able to relate to Ida’s grief, Gwyneth wants to learn more about her adult life. She conducts a search on Ancestry.com and discovers that Ida and her husband, Meyer, had another child, Helen, that wasn’t mentioned in the previous Census. In Helen’s death certificate, they find that she died at the young age of three, after being run over by a wagon. Because it’s an accidental death, there is a coroner’s report, which details the horrible circumstances of Helen’s death.

She also finds that Ida gave birth to another child just three weeks after Helen was killed, which most likely had a profound impact on her parenting, and the seeming inability to be affectionate toward her other children, including Gwyneth’s Grandpa Buster.

Now, Gwyneth wants to know more about Ida’s husband, Meyer.

She was told that her great-great-grandfather was a rabbi, and she is curious to discover if there were any other rabbis in her family.

She is presented with a marriage document that names her great-great-grandfather, Simon, as the groom, and presiding over the ceremony is Simon’s father, Tzvi Hirsch, who was also a rabbi.

Gwyneth is then shown a memorial book that reveals that Tzvi Hirsch, her great-great-great-grandfather, was a master of Kaballah, which the actress practices.

She’s then presented with a book written by Tzvi’s son, in which he tells of how much he loves his father, and the Oscar-winning actress is overwhelmed with his reverence.

Paltrow returns home to share all that she’s learned about her ancestors with her mother, Blythe Danner. Though the actress is sad that her father didn’t know these things about his family before his death, she’s happy that she and her mother had the opportunity, and looks forward to sharing the history with her own children.

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Photo Source: NBC

Topics: NBC Reality TV Shows, Who Do You Think You Are? |

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