Justina Machado on Finding Your Roots – Presented by Ancestry® | Ancestry

– Oh wow! – [Gates] See what I mean? – Wow. Puerto Rico has been a
United States possession for more than a century. And while Puerto Ricans
are American citizens free to move anywhere within the country when they come to the mainland they’re leaving behind
their island’s culture and its history. For many, the experience can be jarring and for their descendants,
the quest for roots can be intensely meaningful. Actor Justina Machado grew up in Chicago because her grandmother moved
from Puerto Rico in the 1950s. Justina told me that she feared
she’d never be able to learn about her ancestors because
they lived in the countryside, and were, she believe, by
and large, impoverished. She worried there were simply
no records of their existence. It was incredible to show
Justina how wrong she was. – [Justina] Julio Ruiz,
Head, Male, Age 56. Occupation: Laborer on sugarcane farm. Dominga Ruiz, Wife, Female, Age: 54. – You just met your
great-great-grandparents who are Julio and Dominga Ruiz. – [Justina] I like those names. – Have you ever heard those names? Julio and Dominga? – No, but they’re great. Julio and Dominga, those are great names. – What’s it like to learn this? – Honestly, this is, it blows my mind, because I have never seen anything this official from my family ever. – Wow. – Never, do you understand? Not a picture, not a marriage certificate, not a death certificate, not any of that. So, to see something
official is like, okay. So, I got some official stuff. – Isn’t that amazing? – It is, it’s pretty phenomenal. – [Gates] Many of us
are surprised to learn, that Puerto Rican census
records are easy to access and birth and death records
exist even in rural regions. Using those records, we were
able to take Justina’s roots all the way back to the early 1800s. What’s more, when we looked
at her mitochondrial DNA, which is the genetic fingerprint passed down from mother to
child across generations we found one more surprising
aspect about her heritage. What continent does it originate in? – Africa. – That means you’re
descended from a black woman on your mother’s side. – There you go. – She was transported to
the islands on a slave ship. And your DNA alone tells us this tale. – Wow! Wow! – Have you ever thought
about the fact that you were descended from enslaved people? That you could possibly be? – I knew that there would be. But to hear it, it just makes
me appreciate my family, in just in general. Just it gives me a sense
of pride, you know? My people worked really hard. They didn’t have much, but
they worked, and this is, it just shows you what can
happen in a couple generations.

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