On NBC’s Who Do You Think You Are?, that aired on April 8, 2011, Ashley Judd’s ancestors are researched. As the daughter of singer Naomi Judd and sister to Wynonna Judd, she has grown up with her mother’s family history. On Who Do You Think You Are?, she seeks her father’s side of the family and hopes to know if old family stories are true.
Her search starts with her father who lives in Kentucky. Ashley Judd’s ancestors on her grandfather side were Sicilian, but she was interested in more about her grandmother’s side. She has heard a family story about an ancestor who had a leg amputated, and she seeks to confirm that rumor. She finds that her great great great grandfather, Elijah Hensley, joined the army when he was only 15. After being imprisoned, released, wounded, and then having a leg amputated, he is imprisoned again by the Confederates in the Civil War. Ashley is then awestruck to find out that he is honorably discharged and then goes on to live a life as a one legged farmer and important figure in his local Methodist church.
Ashley then moves to New England to see if she can find any more information on her ancestors and confirm that she does have New England roots. Her great grandfather, Effie Copley, married William Dalton. His parents were Thomas Jefferson Dalton and Rebecca Dalton. She finds out that Rebecca Dalton’s maiden name was Brewster, which is a huge name in New England. The historian presents her with a family tree. Brewster’s go back 12 generations to England. William Brewster emigrated from England to Massachusetts in 1620 on the Mayflower. Ashley is extremely excited to find William Brewster ‘s name on the Mayflower Compact. Knowing that those on the Mayflower were looking for religious freedom, the Historian sends Ashley to York, England.
Once in York, England she searches for a reason that William Brewster may have left England. She goes to York University and meet with a Professor in History. She learns that Brewster was a gentleman and a bailiff, which means he looks after an archbishop’s affairs. Brewster lived in Scrowbie, which is known for radical religion. Brewster was a central figure in a group of Puritan radicals. He is called to court because he thinks that the Church of England is not a church and wants to separate from it completely. The group that openly criticized the church were called Brownists. Brewster did not answer the summons. Two weeks later, Brewster is due to come to court again but cannot be found. Judd believed that Brewster has gone into hiding.
Ashley then travels to Boston, England to see if Brewster was able to find refuge there. She finds a jail where William Brewster was imprisoned in 1607. She meets with a Pilgrim expert who explains that Brewster was imprisoned because he was trying to find an escape route out of the country. He was imprisoned for several months in awful conditions. Once he was released, the historian believes that he may have escaped to Holland.
Judd heads to Cambridge, England for additional information. She meets with Professor Anthony Milton at Trinity College. She learns that while Brewster was in Holland, he was sending a book, Perth Assembly, into Scotland and England. There is no other information about Brewster until he sails to America on the Mayflower.
Ashley Judd’s ancestors were persecuted for religious faith. This is ironic because religious tolerance is something she is extremely passionate about. Judd is amazed that her ancestors fought for rights that American’s take for granted—Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Religion, and Separation of Church and State.
She meets with her father again, this time in England, to tell him all that she has learned. She meets him where the Mayflower set sail from. She lets him know that her great-times-ten grandfather was on the Mayflower. The show ends with Ashley feeling that her ancestors and the lives they led are firmly imprinted into who she is.