Posted by Ancestry Team on March 2, 2012 in Who Do You Think You Are?

Do you know which of your ancestors was the first to set foot in America? It’s a good question — one that country music legend Reba McEntire is hoping to answer for her mother. But the history she uncovers isn’t always pleasant, and Reba discovers that her own family connections lead to a pair of bleak facts in American history: slavery and indentured servitude. is a sponsor of Who Do You Think You Are? Watch Reba’s journey unfold tonight at 8/7c on NBC. And visit Saturday morning to learn more about linking your ancestor’s story to history, too.


  1. I was touched and in tears watching the newest Who Do You Think You Are about Reba McIntire and her Mother’s Brassfield ancestry. I’ve been a member of Ancestry for over 10 years and through my membership have learned a lot about my husband’s and my ancestry. I am adopted, and through my membership learned a lot about my birth ancestry, and because of that, have met some of my birth family. I have both my adoptive family and birth family trees on Ancestry, and through the years have been blessed to meet both on-line and in person a number of family members. I even discovered that my birth mother and my adoptive mother share the same 8th Great Grandmother – Patience Nichols Hubbard Hawley. Her first husband was my birth ancestor and her second husband was my adoptive ancestor. So essentially I am really related to my adoptive mother too! But thanks to Ancestry this was discovered. I will remain a member for the rest of my life. I am presently working towards becoming a Certified Genealogist, I love working on family history. And many times I find myself in tears because I am in reverance of the fortitude and fearless lives my and my husband’s ancestors lived. Thank you Ancestry for your continual updating of records so that we can continue to learn and honor our ancestors.
    Barb Westgarth

  2. judith ledesma

    Although it is interesting seeing the stars find out about their ancestors they can afford to pay for this information. Regular people like me who cannot afford to pay for his information would get the thrill of their life to find out about their ancestors and where they came from and how they migrated t o the usa. Maybe in the future you could do both.i think you would get more viewers this way……

    Thank you so very much for reading this. God bless you all..judith ledesma………..408-847-9044

  3. Roger Overholts

    What a powerful thing it would be if it could be shown that one of Reba’s ancestors’ slaves was an ancestor to someone who is now alive! Wow!

  4. Kim Skaggs

    I did enjoy the show especially the English countryside and the information she discovered there about her 6th ggrandfather George. I didn’t really care for the way the genealogist on the show kept stressing to her how horrible her 4th ggrandfather, the slave owner was. I think that Reba was aware enough of what a bad history that was in her family without him showing her record after record of his trading slaves. Reba isn’t the person who owned slaves, it was someone who lived two hundred years ago. We all have people who have done terrible things in our past and good things in our past and that is that. I bet if you had looked you would have found relatives of Rebas who fought in the Civil War on the Union side who fought and died to abolish slavery. I just didn’t like the fact that the others who had scallywags in their history were actually shown to have been good people and Reba was made ashamed over and over. It wasn’t fair!

  5. Melanie Ashby

    I was hardly waiting for Reba’s episode because of the parallels in my own English heritage. I think the most sobering realization in my searches is that in the very early 1700s, late 1600s, if you were insolvent (bankrupt) and owing of tax to the King of England, you were shipped to the colonies as a convict AND into indentured service to work off your debt to the crown and to pay for the trip over. It boggles my mind to imagine the horrible conditions on a small, packed, wooden ship for a man but a pregnant woman and/or with small children for 3 months …just incredible odds of survival from disease, abject poverty, war, indians etc. to hit unknown land and still have nothing but more work. History lessons like these are the epitome of appreciation and give profound meaning to what “Thanksgiving” is all about. It sure makes our problems seem insignificant and ridiculous.

  6. I’d just like to remind everyone there is a vast difference between a slave owner selling one or more of his slaves at any given time and being a slave trader (i.e. a person who makes his living by buying and selling slaves).

    Also- don’t judge past actions by today’s standards – that is foolhardy in the extreme. Actions must be judged within the context of their times.

    Andy Hatchett

  7. scwbcm

    I agree, Andy. I wanted to say this all day. Thank you for saying it. Also, don’t judge the living descendant by the ancestor. Many of us didn’t even adopt a lot of the beliefs of our parents and we certainly did not perform their deeds, either for good or bad.

    And people change even within a lifetime. I had one relative who grew up with Japanese descendants on the property as servants, lost friends at Pearl Harbor, went on to have a Japanese best friend and ended up with a grandchildren of partial Japanese descent. If we judge her by the beginning of her life we see a very different person than by the end.

  8. BEE

    While my ancestors came much later than Reba McEntire’s, my great-grandfather had to bid goodbye to his three young daughters, never to see any of them again, a story played out in many families in many countries during all periods of our history.
    My husband’s ancestors, and the maternal ancestors of some of my grandchildren go much farther back. As I researched these ancestors, I found many instances of slave ownership, even people of modest means, so it has been a great history lesson for me, since I always thought I was far removed from that part of our country’s history.

  9. Alice Ball Jones

    The Story of Reba McEntire’s great-grandfather was so interesting. You cannot imagine how surprised I was when they revealed the name of the man to whom her ancestor was indentured. I believe it to be my 8th great-grandfather Bernard Gaines. Oh how I wish I could have been there to see the actual documents with Reba. I knew Bernard Gaines was a judge and a landowner in that area but had not thought about him having indentured servants. This opens up a new part of history I need to explore.

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