“Who Do You Think You Are?” returns to NBC for a third season delving into the history of famous people and tracing their origins. Presented by Ancestry.com, this episode finds Martin Sheen tracing his ancestry back on both his mother’s and father’s side of the family.
Martin Sheen has been in show business over fifty years and has become an icon. Fans know much about his children, but what do we know about him? After he starred in “Apocalypse Now,” his role of an activist allowed him to pick the parts he wanted to play and led him to the White House playing the part of the President of the United States on “The West Wing.”
He was born Ramon Estevez to an Irish mother and Spanish father, who were both immigrants, and has been married to his wife, Janet, for fifty years. They have four children, all in the show business industry: Emilio, Ramon, Carlos (Charlie), and RenÃ©e, all accomplished actors and hold various titles in the entertainment industry.
His oldest Emilio is carrying on the family tradition of wine making in Spain. His mother died at 48 years, and he was eleven when she died. She was born MaryAnn Phelan, but her brother Michael, a member of the IRA, was a soldier in the Irish Civil War, so off to Ireland to find more info. Martin found out that his uncle was fighting against Michael Collins who led the war against England to have Ireland become a free state. His uncle devoted his life to fighting for an independent Ireland even while he was in prison. Martin visited the Kilmainham Jail, one of the jails his uncle was imprisoned. No longer in use, the prison is old and stark, and Martin can only imagine how he felt there.
On the Estevez side, he traveled to Spain to visit his sister, Carmen. His uncle Matias was arrested when he opposed the Fascist regime of Francisco Franco. Matias, nicknamed El Rato (The Mouse), was the leader of a rebel group and condemned to life imprisonment on the island of San Simon. A year later he was transferred to Franco’s most notorious prison in Pamplona named San Cristobal. He was released but still under surveillance for thirty more years. Meeting with another historian at San Cristobal, a stark reminder of the horrors people endured with no heat and temperatures that could reach subzero.
He found his father’s birth certificate and was able to trace back to the 1700s and found that his fourth great-grandfather was a judge and had six illegitimate children that were not discovered until after his death. In other writings, it was known that he declared a woman a criminal who had an affair with a cleric and attempted an abortion, and then years later married the man who declared her guilty. These astonishing events makes one wonder, “Who Do You Think You Are?”