Posted by Ancestry Team on May 5, 2012 in Who Do You Think You Are?

Rashida Jones remembers her grandmother fondly, but until she began her journey into her family history, she didn’t know a lot about her grandmother’s past. A little crafty research changed all of that – including the origins of a surname, Benson. Her grandmother’s arrival record through the Port of New York revealed that an uncle with the surname Benson, too. Jones traced her roots to Ireland, and eventually to Latvia, she learned that “Benson” was actually the first surname the family ever held. A seemingly random name change was actually a link to her family’s deep roots.

Although her great-great-grandfather left Latvia, branches of the family stayed put and Jones learned the tragic fate of relatives who remained. It’s such a poignant reminder of how profoundly decisions made generations before impact each of us today. Links to the past are strong and so are the stories of the people who paved the way. Miss the episode? Watch it on is a sponsor of Who Do You Think You Are? airing Friday nights at 8/7c on NBC.


  1. e p johnson

    On the Rashida Jones episode of “Who Do You Think You Are,” there was a town in Lithuania mentioned as the primary sources of Jews who emigrated … or something like that. Can someone please tell me the name of the town? I couldn’t write it down fast enough. Thanks!

  2. Benson decendant

    As a Benson descendant I was interested in this show though normally I don’t watch it. My Bensons came from Ireland, as far as I know. I have always known that before surnames it was quite possible that Benson was “son of Ben/Benjamin. The tragedies of WW2 are still unfolding.

  3. Tracy Owenby

    I watched this last night as i had recorded it to my dvr. My heart ached and i cried as i watched this and learned of the fate of those precious people. What an atrocity and senseless crime to happen. As Rashida and her Mother said their goodbyes and walked away from the memorial site i saw the anguish and sorrow on their faces. I wanted to hold them both and pray with them. Rashida looks so much like her cousin its so neat. Rashida if you are reading this please know that i am praying for your family and ancestors and my heart goes out to you and your family. Im so glad your granfather was able to make it to Ireland safely and you all exist. God bless!

  4. I typically hate television shows, but “Who do you think you are?” is awesome. It’s pretty entertaining to look into the past of celebrities. Great idea for a show.

  5. I love these shows and especially when they look into the past of celebrites. Its entertaining and shows another side of the celebrity that we dont see often.

  6. Maribelle Rudin

    I love the program but I don’t see them use ancestry that much. If I could travel like they do I would probably be able to find out about my great grandfather Fred Petzold/Petzoldt. I have had ancestry for many years but I can’t find anything about him & where is buried. Born in Germany was a widower with two children when he came. Maybe if I could travel to Germany I could find out more. The programs are wonderful & to see everyone faces as they find out about their familie, they smile & cry. Maybe I just need someone to help me out. Maribelle

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