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Who Do You Think You Are? Season Finale Recap: Paula Deen

May 18, 2012 06:04 PM by Candace Young

The past few weeks on Who Do You Think You Are? viewers have watched the journeys of celebrities such as Rob Lowe, Edie Falco, and Jason Sudeikis as they looked into their families’ pasts. Tonight, Paula Deen delves into her deep Georgia roots. Keep reading for the highlights…

Paula Deen is renowned for her southern cuisine, restaurant, and books. Paula had a blissful childhood, but that ended when she lost her father at age 19. She talks about how later in life, when her marriage was on the rocks, she became agoraphobic and took refuge in her kitchen.  She wants to find out about her ancestry to pass it on to her sons. She heads to Albany, Georgia to meet with her aunt to find out more about the Paul side of the family – the origin of her first name.

There, she is able to go back to W.B. Paul, her great-great-granddaddy, and his wife, Eliza Batts. They were born in Georgia as well.  She meets with a historian who shows her the 1870 census on Ancestry.com. They find out her great-grandfather, John Paul, was living with the Batts family – Eliza’s parents, John and Mary Batts, who had a plantation. They learn that John Batts was a senator in the House of Representatives in Lee County, Georgia.

In searching for further information about her great-great-great grandfather, John Batts, she visits the chamber where he would have passed legislation. Paula learns John supported a presidential candidate who was very pro-slavery. The historian goes on to show her a census showing that John was wealthy – in people – he had 35 slaves. She is shocked, saying it’s horrific and sad. She says if she could have talked to him, she would have done everything in her power to convince him not to participate in the heinous business of slavery.

Paula next meets with another historian, Rachael, who will help find out what happened to John and his family after the civil war. They establish that he did not fight in the war – he was 45 and probably too old. They decide to check if his sons fought – it turns out William did fight and they have some of his letters. Paula reads a letter William wrote to John from Richmond, Virginia. He was awaiting deployment and thought peace would be restored in two months – but the war went four years. In another letter, written to his sister from Allegheny, William complains of miserable winter conditions – he is utterly demoralized. 6 months after that, he is in a hospital in Virginia – having been struck by a ball in the leg. Paula realizes, through his words, that he was fine and decent. The letters stop after that.  A letter from William’s commanding officer to his wife, indicates that ‘Billy’ Batts was killed dead on the field.  Paula is upset – she liked Billy from his letters. The wife writes back that she stayed with the Batts family, and John, the father was the worst off with grief.

After the civil war ended, John Batts was forced to apply for a pardon, as Southerners were considered to have been committing treason. They had to also prove they had freed their slaves.

Paula heads to Emory University to find out how John made out after the war – was he able to get back on his feet? She learns that he was doing well until 1879 when he went from 40 hired hands to 3, and his income fell dramatically. It was a depression era for planters. She is stunned to learn that after that, he committed suicide. Paula hears that the family feared he would do it for some time. Paula is sad.

Paula travels to the area of Smithville, Georgia, where John’s plantation stood and where Billy was raised. There is nothing left of the house but a few crumbled bricks.

Paula reunites with her sons to tell them what she’s found out about how deeply their family is rooted in the state of Georgia. Then they go home so she can make them crab cakes.

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Photo credits: Mr.Blue/Wenn.com, Michael Wright/Wenn.com

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

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