Posted by on September 11, 2013 in Who Do You Think You Are?

 

— and learns that remarkable men run in his family.

WDYTYA-JimParsonsTV star Jim Parsons has always had acting in his blood. But are there other artists in his family tree?

“Are these the kind of qualities that are passed down through a family? It’s not a far reach to say they are.”

To honor his late father, Jim decides to focus his search on his paternal line. He’s also heard about supposed French ancestry and wants to learn the truth of his heritage.

Jim’s mother gets him started with photographs and a death certificate for his great-grandmother Jeanne Hacker, who was born in New Orleans to Charles Hacker and Adele Drouet. Is this his French connection?

An 1850 census record for Charles Hacker reveals that his father, J. B. Hacker, was a physician in Iberville Parish. J. B. was the 55th graduate from the Medical College of Louisiana, only the second of its kind in the South. Hacker graduated in 1842, and by 1854 he was publishing an article on yellow fever in the New Orleans Medical Journal after treating patients during an epidemic of 1853. Jim is thrilled to find someone with such courage and commitment to humanity.

But then tragedy strikes: Jim discovers a newspaper account describing how Dr. Hacker was traveling with his daughter and a nephew on the steamboat Gipsy when the boat caught fire and sank in December 1854. He also finds a beautiful tribute to this “exemplary citizen” and leaves feeling closer to this learned man of science.

While the Hacker line gets Jim to Louisiana, it’s the Drouet line that takes him to France, via his immigrant ancestor Prosper Trouard. In France, Jim examines a baptismal certificate for Prosper’s father, Alexandre Trouard, born in Paris in March 1761. It lists both his father, Louis Francois Trouard, and godfather, who is also his grandfather and also named Louis.

Louis Sr. is a marble supplier to the king. Apparently, he had even higher aspirations for his son: Louis Francois would serve as an architect to King Louis XV.

This was a high artistic honor and one Louis Francois spent a lifetime earning. He was recommended to the Academy of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture in Rome at age 25. At 40 he took his place among the 32 members of the elite royal Academy of Architecture. He was appointed architect to the king in 1787 at age 60.

The timing of Louis Francois’ appointment is significant: 1787 is only two years prior to the French Revolution. Four architects were executed during the Revolution, and another 25 were imprisoned. Yet Louis Francois escaped Republican retribution. Jim wants to know why.

At the Chapelle de la Providence, a structure designed by his ancestor, Jim discovers the startling truth: Louis Francois had good revolutionary credentials, including house guests such as Benjamin Franklin and John Adams.

Marveling at his ancestor’s accomplishments, Jim compares his own father to Louis’ father, who found a way for his son to be educated so he could succeed in his chosen profession. “I don’t know what I would have become without my father,” he explains. “And that’s what’s behind me for generations. And that’s amazing.”

======

Notes from our ProGenealogists team:

You may find obituaries, marriages, births, court cases and plenty of local color in the pages of newspaper articles on Ancestry.com or Newspapers.com. And if there’s a scientist or artist in your family, professional records could hold clues to their skills and accomplishments.

======

Learn more about Jim’s journey by watching the full episode on TLC.com.

We hope you enjoyed this season of Who Do You Think You Are? Catch up on all the episodes below.

Who Do You Think You Are? Episodes from Season 4:

About Kristie Wells

Kristie is Ancestry's Head of Global Social Media and Customer Engagement and is responsible for developing and managing the company's social media and social business offerings worldwide. She works with a team of community managers, genealogists and social content developers to help educate Ancestry's existing customers, inspire new family historians and expand awareness into new social audiences and communities. She has a deep love of family history and is currently trying to break through the brick wall of her Christophier line (that we all know is really the 'Christopher' surname) and to one day prove - or disprove - the baron line of the Wells family. It shall be done.

6 Comments

Marcia Masland 

Love the show and has given me additional ideas to trace my family and it also motives me Keep the show going Thanks

September 11, 2013 at 4:47 pm
Karen Palmer 

Of course to be fair and give credit where it is due, the newspaper archives used in Jim’s search was Genealogybank.com

September 11, 2013 at 4:58 pm
Ken 

Really love the show! Would love to see at least one episode next year where you take a non-celebrity to explore their roots… Perhaps you could run a contest. I can get back to the American Revolutionary War, but beyond that I’m stuck!

September 11, 2013 at 10:01 pm
observer 

@Ken: in just a few weeks just such a show is debuting on PBS. It’s called Genealogy Roadshow.

September 11, 2013 at 11:04 pm
JoAnn Stringer 

The steamship fire was interesting to me because I found newspaper articles about my husband’s 3x great grandfather JJ Stringer, a survivor of the explosion of the Edna on the Ouachita River in 1847. About 25 people were killed in that explosion.

I would have liked to have understood just a big more about how and why Jim Parson’s ancestors came from France to Louisiana. But overall, this was one of the best episodes I’ve seen over all of the seasons.

September 12, 2013 at 9:02 am
Raquel 

I can not find the full episodes anymore. Can anyone tell me where they went?

October 1, 2013 at 8:22 pm