Who Do You Think You Are? US
Research often throws up ancestors who committed crimes where there were mitigating circumstances. And that’s certainly the case with Cynthia Nixon’s 3x great grandmother, Martha Curnutt. The Sex And The City star discovered in season five of the US version of WDYTYA? that Martha killed her abusive husband, Noah Casto, with an axe.
Martha, it seems, feared for her life and decided to act before she was the one who perished. To quote a contemporary newspaper account: “On the morning of the [killing] he told his wife to get up and get breakfast for himself and her two children, and then to commence saying her prayers, for she should die, he swore, before sunset.”
Martha was sentenced to five years in jail for manslaughter and sent to Missouri State Penitentiary. She was the only female inmate. There, in 1844, she gave birth to a daughter, Sarah, although it’s unclear who the father was. There is some light and hope in this otherwise dark story: public pressure led to Martha being pardoned and herer experiences forced the state of Missouri to reform how it dealt with women prisoners.
On Tuesday 23 June, it’s the turn of actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson, who stars in the sitcom Modern Family, to trace his ancestry. He also finds a forebear who had a brush with the law. His great grandfather, Jesse Wheat Uppercue, was tried twice for murdering his aunt and appears to have been something of a conman.
As for Rachel McAdams, star of the forthcoming second series of True Detective, and her sister Kayleen (a Hollywood make-up artist)artist), their research centres on their mother’smothers side of the family. This involves a trip to the UK to trace British forebears, and the revelation that, in the aftermath of the American Revolution, family members loyal to the Crown were forced to live in a refugee camp in Canada.
The series will also feature episodes focused on Valerie Bertinelli, one of the stars of hit US sitcom Hot In Cleveland; Kelsey Grammer of Frasier fame; and a re-edited version of the UK show featuring film star Minnie Driver, who learnt about her war hero father’s double life. Jonathan Wright
Cynthia Nixon discovers a shocking death in the family in her episode