Imagine finding out that your father is not really your father. This has happened to a lot of people on the planet. But now imagine being Julia Roberts, a superstar actor who played in multiple great movies, and won an oscar, finding out your family doesn’t have the right family name since your great-great-grandmother.
This is exactly what happened to her while participating to the famous PBS show “Finding your roots” hosted by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. In this very interesting show, they explore the ancestral stories of many stars, and It’s always full of surprises for them. But for Julia Roberts, as you can see in the following sequence, It’s on another level.
Is Julia Roberts Actually a “Roberts”? Julia Roberts learns through DNA that her “great-great grandfather” Willis Roberts could not be related to her. Watch her reaction from tonight’s season premiere of #FindingYourRoots here -> pic.twitter.com/MAd8Mtzlza
— Henry Louis Gates Jr (@HenryLouisGates) January 4, 2023
In this short sequence, our host tells Julia Roberts that Willis Roberts could not be her great-great-grandfather because he was dead. So Julia asks “Oh wait, but am I not a Roberts?” and Henry Louis Gates Jr. answers that the researchers searched Douglas County, GA for records of John’s father and that they found absolutely nothing.
But why did they find nothing? Even if she’s not a Roberts, her real great-great-grandfather should have been somewhere on the family tree. Well, there’s a reason why we couldn’t know.
Born from a secret relationship
To understand why Julia Roberts is not a Roberts, we need to get the full story. Her great-grandfather, John Pendleton Roberts, was the son of Rhoda Suttle, her great great grandmother. But while she was pregnant with John, Willis Roberts was already dead, so he couldn’t be Willis’ son.
The only solution was that Rhoda Suttle had a relationship with another man, and had a baby with him. That’s what she did, but she never said anyone that John wasn’t Willis’ son and gave him her husband’s name. But who is the real great-great-grandfather then? Have we found out?
Yes, we did, and thanks to a DNA test. They found out Julia Roberts is the descendant of a man named Henry McDonald Mitchell Jr. And the reason why Rhoda kept John’s dad’s real identity a secret is that Henry was married to a woman named Sarah at that time. That’s why she decided to give the name Roberts to her son in reality, to protect the secret of his relationship. Finally, Willis Roberts died in 1864 while John Pendleton Roberts was born in 1878, over a decade later. This proves it is totally impossible for Willis to be John’s father.
Now that we have the whole story, let’s go back to Julia Roberts. She just found out that her family name wasn’t really her family name for three generations. She now understands she’s not a Roberts.
Julia Roberts’ reaction
Julia Roberts couldn’t believe what she just heard. She stayed still for seconds, hands on her head, and didn’t know how to react to this shocking news, she said: “Wow. Is my head on straight still? Am I facing you?” She, then adds “Truly my mind is blown”
Because this story not only concerns her, it concerns her whole family, and this means her family name is not the right one for decades. It’s been even more than a century that her family keeps a name that is not blood-related to Willis Roberts, that’s why she asks the host: “So we’re Mitchells?”.
But of course, It’s Julia Roberts, so she easily calms down and goes back to herself. She says: “you know I can still wrap my arms around the idea that my family is my family”. And she’s totally right. Even though her name is not the right name for decades, It’s only a name, and It doesn’t change the fact that her family is still her family. The family tree just had a little change in the middle, but in reality, it doesn’t really change anything for her and her family.
Finally, she ends up saying she: “prefers the name Roberts” and she still feels like a Roberts, whatever happens. And I think we can all agree to that. Julia Roberts will always stay Julia Roberts for us.