This documentary series follows a different celebrity every week as they search throughout America (and occasionally the world) to discover their roots.
Paltrow found a strong lead to her past through Montreal-based online database, Jewish Records Indexing- Poland (JRI Poland). Founded by Stanley Diamond, JRI-Poland allows users to search a database of 4.2 million records related to Polish Jewry.
Before beginning her journey, Paltrow was aware of her Jewish heritage. Her late father, Bruce Paltrow ("St. Elsewhere," "The White Shadow") was Jewish, while her mother (Blythe Danner) is a Quaker from Pennsylvania Dutch country.
After searching through JRI Poland, the actress discovered that she comes from a long line of rabbis named Paltrowicz from northeastern Poland and the towns of Suwalki, Lomza, and nearby shtetls.
“The show’s researchers tapped into JRI-Poland’s online database as the starting point in documenting Paltrow’s ancestry,” said Diamond.
“The website has 90 record entries for Paltrow’s ancestors and the WDYTYA team said, ‘JRI Poland is a wonderful resource for anyone researching Jewish Polish ancestry and was invaluable during the research for the Gwyneth Paltrow episode.’”
“Who Do You Think You Are?” has created a lot of interest in family research. Sites like Ancestry.com have made it much easier for individuals to begin their search.
Until these online sources were made available, genealogists (both professional and hobbyists) spent months and oft times years making phone calls, sifting through archives and tracking down birth/marriage/immigration records.
“Genealogical websites are among the most visited of any,” said Diamond.
“Ancestry.com went public last year and its shares have doubled in value.”
Other celebrities that have discovered their ancestry on the show are Ashley Judd, Rosie O’Donnell, Sarah Jessica Parke, and Tim McGraw.
Reprinted with permission from Shalom Life
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