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‘This Is a Lot to Take In’: Regina King Brought to Tears After Learning About Her Grandfather’s Double Life

Discovering facts about your family can bring about a range of emotions and feelings. Actress Regina King got emotional after learning some surprising facts about her family during an episode of PBS’ “Finding Your Roots.”

During season eight, episode nine, the show’s host, Henry Louis Gates Jr., informed King that her paternal grandfather, Thomas King Sr., lived a double life.

Regina King
Regina King appears on “Finding Your Roots” on April 12, 2022. (Photo: Ancestry screenshot/YouTube.)

King learned that according to census records from 1940, her father’s father had two families in two different cities, one with King’s grandmother Ruby in Memphis and another in Chicago through a legal marriage to a woman named Cora.

She said her father, Thomas King Jr., never shared much about his roots, so she was surprised to learn the news about her grandfather’s other family.

“Growing up, I never really knew much about him other than he loved us and where he worked and his friends, who were his good friends. But never did he share his roots,” said King before learning her grandfather was somewhat absent during her father’s childhood.

“From my vantage point as a girl, my grandfather was definitely in my father’s life because I knew my grandfather. My grandfather actually gave me away at my wedding.”

King said she did remember her paternal grandmother, Ruby, being very sad. “My grandmother was a very sad woman. I remember that as a little girl. Now I see why,” she recalled. “Pain is inherited as well as joy.”

She said, “My mind is just … this is a lot to take in. A lot I’ve never seen and never heard.”

The 52-year-old entertainer also learned about her mother’s side of the family. Her third great-grandfather, Bob Cain, Gates told her, was listed in the will of a white planter named Elijah Cain as a 6-year-old boy passed down like property to another member of the family.

“It makes me angry,” said King. “Because, you know, did he know his mother? You know, and, and if he did, how long? And he’s a boy that’s six, and just alone. I couldn’t imagine at six-years-old being alone. And, you know, seeing it like this and seeing it written, it just um, it just kinda hits differently.”

When asked what she was doing at six, a teary-eyed King replied, “I was safe.”

The Academy Award winner also learned that Cain registered to vote in 1867, two years after the Civil War ended, despite being illiterate.

She said, “Now these are happy tears because he understood the importance of that, and what that meant. And like you said, even though he couldn’t read and he couldn’t write, he could feel.”

King also learned that she is a distant cousin to “Bad Moms” actress Kathryn Hahn.

It’s been a year since — April 2022  — that King learned about her ancestors to form a better understanding of her family’s history.

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