Records show that Edward Norton’s 12th great-grandmother was the real Pocahontas

In a recent episode of “Finding Your Roots,” the actor’s third great-grandfather was also revealed to be a slave owner.

The well-known Disney movie “Pocahontas” is based on a real Native American woman. The “Fight Club” star, Edward Norton, has found out that he is a descendant of the famous Native American from the 1700s. We all loved watching the classic movie as kids and as adults. CNN says that Pocahontas is Norton’s 12th great-grandmother. She is the idealized and mythologized daughter of a Powhatan chief.

In a recent episode of “Finding Your Roots” on PBS, genealogical records showed that the Oscar-nominated actor is related to the woman who married John Rolfe, a settler in Virginia. Henry Louis Gates Jr., a historian and TV host, proved that the long-held family story was true. He told Norton, “You have a direct paper trail, no doubt about it, connection to your 12th great-grandmother and great-grandfather, John Rolfe and Pocahontas.” 

Gates said that the famous couple got married in Jamestown, Virginia, on April 5, 1614, while Shakespeare was still alive. He said that documents showed that Pocahontas died three years later in Gravesend, England, and that Rolfe died in March 1622. After the discovery, Norton said, “It just makes you realize what a small piece of the whole human story you are.” 

But the 2007 book “The True Story of Pocahontas: The Other Side of History,” says that Pocahontas was already married to a Native American warrior named Kocoum and had a child with him before she was taken away and married John Rolfe. According to BBC, the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian says that the events in the book are supported by both written and oral historical evidence.

Pocahontas helped English people settle in what is now the United States at the beginning of the 17th century. The story goes that she saved Captain John Smith’s life by putting her head on his as he was being executed. During the show, Norton and Pocahontas’s exciting relationship wasn’t the only shocking fact about Norton’s family that came out. Gates also told the actor that his ancestors had slaves.

The program that looks into the ancestry of famous people found that Norton’s third great-grandfather, John Winstead, owned a family of slaves that included a 55-year-old man, his 37-year-old wife, and their four, five, six, eight, nine, and ten-year-old daughters. Norton, who is 53 years old, said that he had looked into his ancestry before going on “Finding Your Roots” and that he didn’t feel comfortable with that part of his family history.

The actor from “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” was asked how it felt to see on a census that one of his ancestors owned slaves. He answered: “The short answer is these things are uncomfortable. And you should be uncomfortable with them. It’s not a judgment on you in 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. When you read ‘slave aged eight,’ you simply want to die.” In the first episode of the show’s ninth season, there was also a look into Julia Roberts’ family history.