Gwyneth Paltrow’s Barbadian Roots

Barbados has been getting much publicity from actress Gwyneth Paltrow, who recently retraced her family links to the island. In last Friday’s episode of NBC’s genealogy show Who Do You Think You Are? television viewers witnessed the Academy Award-winning actress’s visit to the island where she traced her roots. Who Do You Think You Are? follows popular celebrities as they embark on personal journeys of self-discovery to trace their family trees around the world.

The blurb for this episode said, “Gwyneth Paltrow digs in to her family’s past and finds a surprising connection to her spiritual roots, a new appreciation for her great-grandmother and ancestors on the island of Barbados.” Consulting with Barbadian historian Dr. Pedro Welch Jr and Dr Patricia Stafford at the Barbados Archives, Paltrow discovered that her great-grandmother was white Barbadian seamstress Rosamund Stoute, who migrated to the United States in 1868, at the age of 18.

Description: The actress described her lineage, explaining that her mother’s side of the family has both German and Dutch roots and her father’s side is Jewish. Gwyneth began her quest at the New York Public Library to find more information about her mother, Blythe Danner’s, side of the family. Danner, who is also a Hollywood actress, knew of a relative from Barbados, believed to be her father’s mother, Ida Mae Danner.

While at the library, Gwyneth found Ida’s death certificate, which listed her parents’ names as David and Isabel Stoute Yetter. The certificate also revealed that Isabel was born Rosamond Isabel Yetter and came from Barbados, West Indies. While living in Barbados, Isabel worked as a domestic servant. Curious to uncover more information about her ancestor, Gwyneth learned that Isabel and her sister, Martha, traveled to America on a cargo ship when Isabel was only 18 years old. The two made the journey alone, penniless, because their parents were no longer living.

The actress questioned why the two sisters would leave Barbados and decided that she must travel to the island to find the answers. While in Barbados, Gwyneth learned that Isabel’s father had a respectable job as a merchant clerk. She discovered a burial register that revealed Isabel’s parents both passed away by the time she was 13. Gwyneth also learned that, during this time, Barbados was populated by more women than men so the chances of marriage were slim for a woman at that time. White women also had a tough time finding jobs because black women would work for lower pay rates. Gwyneth came to the assumption that Isabel and her sister made the voyage to America in search of a better life.

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