House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) got a surprise when he was filming an episode of “Finding Your Roots,” the TV show in which Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. helps people explore their ancestry, The Associated Press reports.
Gates told the Television Critics Association on Tuesday that he traced Ryan’s heritage to his 10th great-grandfather, who was born in 1531. The research shows Ryan is 3 percent Ashkenazi Jewish, Gates said.
“You could have knocked him over with a feather and then he was very proud of it,” Gates said of Ryan’s reaction, according to AP. “We don’t know who that Jewish person was, but we know it was on his mother’s German line, which makes sense. So somebody who was a Christian German slept with a Jewish German person and that’s where that came from.”
Ryan, who is Roman Catholic, is a fifth-generation Wisconsinite. His father was of Irish descent, and his mother German and English.
Ryan’s story will be featured on the fifth season of “Finding Your Roots,” which debuts in January.