TODAY   |  September 09, 2012

Lester and Jenna trace their Jamaican roots

Weekend TODAY’s Lester Holt and Jenna Wolfe took a trip to Jamaica together to explore their roots. Holt’s maternal grandparents were from the island, and Wolfe was born there.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> there is something jenna and i have in common, jamaica . my maternal grandparents were born on the caribbean island .

>> and i was actually born on the island. we recently returned there together to retrace our roots and visit some old family and friends .

>> for centuries, jamaica has been calling. one love one heart let's get together and feel all right

>> from european settlers to today's american tourists, if you didn't know any better, you might have mistaken jenna and me for.

>> but hold on. this was no boondoggle.

>> the catamaran was close to the line.

>> really it was to explore our jamaican roots. mine began here.

>> you think they're going to remember you?

>> if they don't remember my face, i can guarantee you they'll remember my voice.

>> we're at the maternity ward of kingston's hospital where i was born. baby wolfeld. that's me. does that say normal? normal. it's all right this.

>> that you were normal.

>> that i was normal. contrary to what a lot --

>> you're a real jamaican. well, i have no birth claim to the island, however my maternal grandparents were born, raised and married in jamaica . six years ago i made my first journey here with my american-born mother. this is where your mother grew up?

>> that's the house.

>> on that trip we traveled to rural manchester on our own emotional journey of discovery.

>> i never thought i'd see it. i didn't know it was still here. you know, it's just like now i'm home. this is -- this is just unbelievable.

>> never thought i'd see this. so, when my mom and i came here we were really telling the story of her mother, my grandmother. now we're in spanishtown.

>> do you still have family here?

>> we don't know a lot about my grandfather. he was one of 14 kids born to an indian from calcutta, white english person. his father died when he was very young. very poor. this is where they were from.

>> meanwhile, i left jamaica when i was 5 but i returned often over the years. things looked familiar as we went to the neighborhood where my family lived to reunite with special people . nila, back in my toddler days, a neighbor and second mom, who last saw me when i looked like this and when i had a vastly different personality.

>> you're so different on tv now because when you were here, you were so shy and --

>> no.

>> are we at the wrong address.

>> jenna was the sweet little, always perfectly dressed.

>> one of those sons, andanino, my first unofficial boyfriend. here he is trying to hop a fence to impress me. here i am looking in the opposite direction.

>> he was a bigger boy, so he had to look up to you.

>> oh.

>> we jamaicans never forget the family. once a family, no matter where they are, they are still family.

>> later, a stroll through the courtyard by my old apartment brought back sweet memories , especially of one neighbor who couldn't keep the music down.

>> you would hear the drums going. we would say, who is making all this noise.

>> who was it?

>> bob marley .

>> can you believe that?

>> yes.

>> so when he brags he likes reggae, i know reggae.

>> she grew up with it in her backyard.

>> that's right, bob marley was jenna 's neighbor. now we're at the museum, which was his house, in the shadows of where you lived. how did you end up being born in jamaica ?

>> my father had a leather manufacturing company, they moved it to jamaica . they had leather buttons. this is where i called home for many years.

>> i never set foot in jamaica until i was an adult. when i got there, i met plenty of extended family .

>> great to see you again. i would like you to meet jenna .

>> i've seen you on tv.

>> scott wilson is my second cousin. guess what? he's a broadcaster, too, a voiceover announcer.

>> and turns out scott is also a record producer . and he invited us to sit in on a session for a new reggae cd.

>> reggae, jamaican soul.

>> its music, easy pace and beaches is what jamaica is known for. kingston is a port city . no fancy resorts here. but if you stick with a local --

>> we're going to a little key called lime key. it's not much more than a sand bar , but it has a little bit of vegetation on it and it's big enough for everybody to come on weekends.

>> you can actually dock right on the beach.

>> or swim. woo woo hoo! ya man!

>> it was a grace place for me and scott to reflect and connect.

>> jamaica is smaller and everything is intense, no. we're related and i feel like i've known you forever, but the bonds of family in jamaica are traditional really.

>> before we left like key, we insisted scott teach us the local dialogue.

>> how would you say, we had a wonderful time can't wait to come back.

>> ya sweet can't wait for power.

>> that's very good.

>> yeah.

>> you sound --

>> you said it right.

>> you sound like a cartoon.

>> he sound like as like a new yorker.

>> one useful phrase scott didn't teach jenna --

>> slow down. how could we possibly leave this island without tasting one of its most daring offerings. bobsledding. at ochoa rios --

>> de say slow down?

>> yes. slow down is a fitting response. not just to the bob shred, but to life in general .

>> the jamaican way of life where the rhythm of ray geggae and the waves will welcome you always.

>> i want to go back.

>> every 52 weeks, that shouldn't be a problem.

>> the bob shrsled thing didn't look fast but you were driving and you had the control --

>> eee! that's lester.

>> you weren't aware of the brakes --

>> no brakes. can we thank our producers who did great jobs with us shooting. that's me.

>> back in your shy period.

>> back when i was super shy. and i wore long dresses, apparently, because that was fancy back then.

>> even folks you're not related to, there is a welcome home quality to jamaica . people are warm, embracing.

>> and their way of life is so peaceful and still that everything is laid back and easy, just smiling. it all just falls off your shoulders.

>> we paved the way for another paid trip.

>> just like new york city .