Edward Norton grew up hearing that he was a direct descendant of Pocahontas, but the actor had always brushed off the fascinating family legend — until now.
The 53-year-old, who stars in “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery,” never actually believed that he could be related to one of the most well-known historical figures in American history. But Norton's appearance on PBS' "Finding Your Roots" proved him wrong.
In a recent episode, Norton sought the help of the show's host, ancestry expert Henry Louis Gates Jr., to learn more about his family's history. Norton said he has always been "fascinated" by ancestry and "the idea of roots," so he came to the conversation with vast knowledge of his family tree.
With the help of Gates and his team, Norton discovered that his family legend was actually supported by historical records. As it turns out, Pocahontas is his 12th great-grandmother.
“Oh, my God,” the actor said, shaking his head in disbelief. “How could you possibly determine that?”
“Through the paper trail,” Gates explained.
“It would’ve been documented? They would’ve had a paper trail of their children?" Norton asked.
"Of course," Gates said.
That means that John Rolfe, who married Pocahontas in 1614, is Norton's 12th great-grandfather. The couple, who died in 1622 and 1617, respectively, shared one child, Thomas Rolfe.
The actor was humbled by the discovery.
“This is about as far back as you can go and that's it, unless you're a Viking," he marveled.
The revelation put the whole concept of ancestry into perspective for Norton.
"It just makes you realize what a small piece of the whole human story you are," he said.
During the episode, Norton also learned about one of his ancestors who enslaved seven people, taking a moment to reflect.
“These things are uncomfortable and you should be uncomfortable with them, everybody should be uncomfortable with it. It’s not a judgment on you and your own life, but it’s a judgment on the history of this country. And it needs to be acknowledged first and foremost and then it needs to be contended with," he said.
Norton also discovered that one of his ancestors served in the Continental Army during the American Revolution, and the news made him proud.
"You can't not get a warm feeling at anybody, whether it's your ancestor or not, displaying a certain kind of courage and conviction on behalf of someone else," he said.