Oscar-winning actress Julia Roberts discovered she’s not from the “Roberts” lineage after all during a Wednesday appearance on PBS’ “Finding Your Roots” with Henry Louis Gates Jr.
Gates uncovered the old family secret and told Roberts the man she thought was her great-great-grandfather, Willis Roberts, died in 1864, more than a decade before Roberts’ great-grandfather was born. He said Roberts’ great-great-grandmother, Rhoda Suttle Roberts, had married Willis in the 1850s, which revealed an odd gap when Willis passed away.
“Julia, Willis Roberts could not possibly be your great-great-grandfather. He was dead,” Gates said.
“Oh, wait — but am I not a Roberts?” the actress asked. She soon came to the revelation she had been living a lie her whole life and that she wasn’t a “Roberts” after all.
Gates explored a number of public databases and found “a cluster of matches” that traced Roberts’ DNA to a man named Henry McDonald Mitchell Jr, according to the interview.
“So we’re ‘Mitchell’s?’” Roberts asked.
“You’re Julia Mitchell,” Gates Jr. replied. The actress laughed at the apparent surprise. “You are not a Roberts, biologically,” Gates clarified.
The actress soon stumbled across even more secrets. The historian revealed Henry Mitchell Jr. had been married at the time of his alleged affair with Roberts’ great-great-grandmother, and that he had six children of his own with his wife, Sarah. He also said Mitchell’s widowed mother lived “just four households away” from Rhoda.
Roberts appeared visibly stunned to discover the revelations about her ancestry, and said just one word: “Wow.”
Gates Jr. asked Roberts to explain how she felt. “On the one hand, I, truly, my mind is blown,” Roberts said. “And it is fascinating.” (RELATED: Edward Norton Discovers Pocahontas Is Part Of His Family Lineage)
“And on the other hand, there’s part of me that, when I’m calmer, can still wrap my arms around the idea that my family is my family. And I do prefer the name Roberts!” she exclaimed.
“This was a very unexpected turn,” Roberts said as the session ended.