May 11, 2012 05:59 PM by Candace Young
The past few weeks on Who Do You Think You Are? viewers have watched the journeys of celebrities such as Rashida Jones, Rob Lowe, and Edie Falco, as they looked into their families’ pasts. Tonight, Jason Sudeikis delves into his father’s ancestry. Keep reading for the highlights…
Jason Sudeikis, a self-professed honorary New Yorker, has a lot of information on his mother’s side of the family, so plans to explore his father’s family history. He says his father raised him without the benefit of having had a father himself. He wants to find out what happened with his grandfather, Stanley. His parents talk to him about his grandmother, who was a single parent. Jason’s father, Dan, doesn’t remember his father at all. He says his mother kept his father’s life and death under a cloak of mystery, but once said he slipped and broke his neck on church steps and died.
Jason locates his grandfather’s Certificate of Death, which confirms that he died from a skull fracture sustained accidentally on a sidewalk. There is an informant on the document – a woman other than his grandmother. He has the same address as the woman, Ann Pukel. An archivist unearths a document – a decree for separate maintenance – filed by Jason’s grandmother against his grandfather, Stanley. Since they were catholic, divorce was forbidden. He reads the record of the court proceedings and learns that they got married, but Stanley didn’t live with Edna or provide for her, nor did he ever see Jason’s father, Dan. Stanley also refused to work.
Jason meets a historian at the site where Stanley died. She gives him something to read by himself – the coroner’s inquest report. It turns out Ann Pukel was Stanley’s cousin. She testified that Stanley was always drunk. It’s likely he was intoxicated and stumbled when he died. Further evidence suggests that he was basically homeless.
At a library, Jason attempts to learn more about his grandfather’s father, Stanley Sr. He learns he was married to Emma in 1914. In the 1920 Chicago census, Stanley Sr. isn’t living in the household. A census from Bridgeport shows Stanley Sr. living with another wife – he appears to have two families. No records are found of a divorce. They compare the information on the marriage records and determine that it is the same Stanley Sr. – he is a bigamist. Stanley Sr. lived with the family in Bridgeport – he worked as a gardener and had a daughter. Jason feels some sympathy for his grandfather, who obviously also grew up without his father as well.
He wonders if the pattern of abandonment goes back even further. His great-great grandfather Joseph, who came over from Lithuania, is a coal miner in Pennsylvania who is listed in the 1911 census as having 8 children, but none of them are Stanley Sr, age 8, who appears to have still been back in Lithuania at that time.
Jason learns that Joseph died in a gas explosion in the coal mine when Stanley Sr. was young. He goes down in a mine to get a sense of what Joseph might have experienced. The guide shows him the hats with flames they wore for light. When Joseph stuck his head into an area that had a pocket of gas, it caused a huge deadly explosion. Jason absorbs that fact that the pattern of men in his family having no fathers, broke down here, with a man trying to work hard to make a better life for his family.
Back at his family home, Jason tells his father, Dan, that his father, Stanley, never met him, and never paid child support. He was a drinker who died alone and penniless. Jason hopes it provides Dan with some closure or understanding. He goes on to tell him about Stanley Sr. and Joseph.
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Photo credits: HRC/Wenn.com, Ivan Nikolov/Wenn.com