Melissa McCarthy (05:41)
The actor and comedian grew up on a farm in Plainfield, Illinois. She recalls being a troublemaker and wanting to go into fashion. In New York, a friend convinced her to try stand-up. She credits her parents for supporting her dream.
Eric Stonestreet (03:57)
The actor grew up on a farm in Kansas and wanted to be a circus clown. He became a comedian and plays a character who is an amateur clown. His father taught him to work hard.
Discovering Scottish Roots (05:27)
McCarthy's paternal grandfather Michael Carty changed his surname to McCarthy upon arriving to America. He grew up in Overtown in housing for industrial workers. His father Thomas was an ironworks shearsman who died of pneumonia at 45, leaving seven young children.
Irish Immigrant Ancestors (03:13)
One million people left Ireland in the late 1800s. McCarthy's great-grandfather Thomas moved from Clongish Parish to Overtown, Scotland in search of work. McCarthy reflects on discovering the Carty side of her family tree.
German Immigrant Ancestors (04:13)
Eric's maternal grandmother Helen Heath lived and died in Kansas City. Her grandfather William Kiekert came to America in 1882 and applied for a homestead, becoming a farmer. He married fellow immigrant Anna; they had seven children.
Anti-German Sentiment (03:51)
German-Americans were required to register as enemy aliens during WWI. The government interned six thousand Germans and seized private property, but Eric's family endured persecution without bitterness. His great-grandfather William became a citizen after the war.
Discovering Bavarian Roots (02:40)
Eric's great-great grandmother Anna was the illegitimate child of Dorothea Hut, a servant who was herself the illegitimate daughter of another Dorothea Hut and Nicholas Fork.
Family Scandal (05:31)
Melissa remembers her maternal great-grandmother Amanda Hoffman. Her great-great-grandmother Emma is listed as widowed in the 1900 Illinois census. A newspaper article reports Emma's husband left her for her cousin; she raised their children and ran the family farm alone.
Enlisting in the Union Army (04:35)
Melissa's great-great-grandmother Emma's parents John and Mary emigrated separately from Prussia to Illinois, where they married in 1862. John's regiment fought in Mississippi during the Civil War and served in an occupation force protecting former slaves in Texas.
Midwestern Farming Roots (05:05)
Eric's paternal grandmother encouraged his clown career. His great-grandmother, Mary Knecht, lived with her parents August and Gertrude on their Kansas dairy farm. August emigrated from the Austrian Alps in 1867; Eric relates to leaving home for new opportunities.
Becoming Stonestreet (03:29)
Eric's paternal great-great-grandfather Anton Steingassner, a tailor, emigrated from Austria to the U.S. in 1881. He anglicized his surname during WWI, when German-Americans experienced discrimination. The Steingassner line originated in Austria in the 1600s.
Understanding Roots (01:51)
Eric and Melissa unfurl their family trees. They appreciate their ancestors' work ethic and determination in immigrating to the U.S., and can relate to their pursuit of new opportunities.
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