February 4, 2012

Martin Sheen Talks About His Journey on Who Do You Think You Are

Last week NBC held a Press & Media Conference Call with Martin Sheen, one of the celebrities featured on this season of Who Do You Think You Are. Olive Tree Genealogy blog was fortunate to be invited to join in this interview session.

During the 45 minute interview Mr. Sheen shared his experiences and his reactions to finding ancestors who shared his own commitment to social justice, to learning about two ancestors "over-the-top" connection and to learning about his family roots.

Mr. Sheen's passion and enthusiasm for what he had learned on the journey with WDYTYA was undeniable. Strong connections were made with ancestors who shared his own commitment to social justice. Two uncles fought and suffered for their beliefs. One  uncle, his mother's brother (Michael Phelan) in Ireland was an Irish volunteer and fought in the War of Independence and then fought against the Free State in the Civil War from 1921 to 1923.

On his father's side, an uncle in Spain fought against Franco at the onset of his coup and was imprisoned for many years. Mr. Sheen wondered if "maybe this is some unknown quality that I have possessed" and pondered that it might be part of his DNA.

Mr. Sheen shared his belief that the fundamental purpose [of genealogy research] is to "try and identify personally to your foundation", that anyone taking such a journey is "looking for a personal identification with the past"

When asked whether or not he s aware of the online genealogical resources such as Ancestry.com before he became involved with Who Do You Think You Are Mr. Sheen confessed that he does not have a computer but that he was a fan of the show, having watched previous episodes. He does plan to continue researching his family roots with his wife's help.

When asked what he hoped that his descendants would learn about him and his legacy in the future, Mr. Sheen said he felt " a sense that I was doing it [Who Do You Think You Are] for my grandchildren and their children." He added that "if something could be uncovered that would be meaningful to future generations, you know, I would be a part of passing that on and that would be very, very satisfying."

Mr. Sheen went on to say "the more information we get about the past, the more we can anticipate the future I think, you know. And so as I say, my involvement in this journey was a deeply personal one and at the same time I felt it was my responsibility for the future generations."

Regarding his episode on Who Do You Think You Are, which aired last night Friday Feb. 3rd Mr. Sheen commented

"this past experience with "Who Do You Think You Are?" was the most gratifying of all the journeys I made there because it was specifically done to unearth my heritage. And I took it very, very personal and embraced it wholeheartedly. No matter what came down I was going to accept it. I wasn't always prepared for what I learned but the journey itself was deeply satisfying. And I've seen the final show and it is a very clear reflection of my journey."


Followup: Having watched Mr. Sheen's episode of WDYTYA last night, I saw what Mr. Sheen referred to during the interview as what would be considered "too far-fetched" and "over-the-top" to be believed if it was written in a novel. It's the kind of fascinating story that every genealogist longs for.

Mr. Sheen's 4th great grandfather Don Diego Francisco Suarez born ca 1713, a prominent judge in Spain, prosecuted a woman who had an affair with a "privileged" man in the community, then became pregnant and attempted to procure an abortion. Don Diego put up wanted posters to apprehend the young woman and tried everything in his power to apprehend her for prosecution.

Several generations later a descendant of Don Diego married a descendant of this young woman he had prosecuted. Those two descendants are Martin Sheen's ancestors. What a story!


1 comment:

nla2247 said...

I can well share Mr. Sheen's amazement of his discoveries of his ancestry because I have encountered the same avenue. Not everyone has colorful backgrounds, but the realization of what their ancestors went through is something that our present and future generations should experience. Congratulations, Mr. Sheen on your "discoveries" and am enlightened that not only you but your family members both present and future can benefit from this.