Last week, Josh Groban made a guest appearance on The Office as Walter Bernard, Jr., the younger and apparently more successful brother of Ed Helms's Andy Bernard. As a genealogist, seeing him with this television family naturally made me curious about his real life family, so I decided to take a peek into his past. Here are ten discoveries that emerged from my research:
- If you were to Google your way around the Internet, you'd probably be left with the impression that Josh is half-Jewish (from Russia and Poland) and half-Norwegian, and you wouldn't be too far off. He's actually 5/8 Jewish and 1/8 Norwegian.
Chronicling America, The Minneapolis Journal, July 6, 1903
- In several interviews, Josh has claimed that he has roots in Toten, Norway and visited there with his family. He's absolutely right as his Brunsberg branch leads back to Østre Toten, Oppland. In fact, it takes a little doing, but if you search the digital archive from the National Archives of Norway (if only more countries had such valuable resources online!), you can find this 1852 birth record of Theolina, Josh's future great-great-grandmother and one of several generations in the same family to emigrate to America:
- As this letter to the editor by Theolina's then 13-year-old daughter, Julia (Josh's great-grandmother), shows, she was nickled and dimed by a clever friend when she was only four years old.
Chronicling America, The Minneapolis Journal, April 6, 1901
- Josh's middle name of Winslow was the maiden name of one of his great-grandmothers, and winds back in time to the earliest days of colonial America. Though it would require extensive research to be absolutely certain, the consensus is that it leads back to John Winslow who was not on the Mayflower himself, but had both a brother and wife who were. And through the wife at least, Josh is a Mayflower descendant.
So Josh has a combination of Jewish, Norwegian and Mayflower roots, making him, of course, quintessentially American.