According to genealogical results on the Finding your Roots show Edward Norton is actually a direct descendant of Pocahontas. The Guardian reported that the 17th century Native American woman is in fact the 12th great-grandmother of actor Edward Norton.
“You have a direct paper trail, no doubt about it, connection to your 12th great grandmother and great-grandfather, John Rolfe and Pocahontas,” said the show’s host Henry Louis Gates Jr.
Edward Norton and John Winstead
Pocahontas, the daughter of Powhatan chief is said to have saved the life of Captain John Smith by stopping his execution by placing her head on his. She married Englishman John Rolfe in 1614 and died three years later in Gravesend, England. They had a son Thomas, born in 1615.
Apparently Norton’s third great-grandfather, John Winstead also enslaved a family which included a 55 year-old man, a 37 year-old woman and five young girls.
Norton’s reaction to all of the above was, “The short answer is these things are uncomfortable. And you should be uncomfortable with them. It’s not a judgement on you in your own life but it’s a judgement on the history of this country and it needs to be acknowledged first and foremost and then it needs to be contended with. When you read ‘slave aged eight’ you just want to die.”
According to Gates the paper trail directly links Norton to the well known figure. “I understand that was family lore. Well, it is absolutely true. John Rolfe and Pocahontas got married on April 5, 1614, Shakespeare died in 1616, just to put this in perspective. This is about as far back as you can go, unless you’re a Viking. Makes you realise what a small piece of the whole human story you are.”
Gates also said that Norton is a distant cousin of Julia Roberts. “You and Ed share a long, identical stretch of DNA on your ninth chromosomes.” Roberts was also on the show and similarly had her own genealogy report.
Roberts learned that her fourth great-grandfather Edward Townsend had owned enslaved people on a farm of 2,000 acres. “You have to figure out if you’re from the South, you’re on one side of it or the other. You can’t turn your back on history even when you become a part of it in a way that doesn’t align with your personal compass,” she said.