Maya Rudolph at the Los Angeles premiere of "Inherent Vice" on December 10, 2014. The actress learned about her family history on Tuesday's episode of "Finding Your Roots." File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo
NEW YORK, Jan. 20 (UPI) -- Maya Rudolph made an emotional discovery on Tuesday's episode of Finding Your Roots.
The 43-year-old actress, who is of biracial heritage, broke down in tears on the PBS genealogy series after learning her young maternal ancestor was a slave. Her predecessor was listed only by his age -- 5 years old -- on an 1860 Kentucky census.
"I just think of my kids," she said. "That's really hard to see ... Just when I understood what the numbers were that I'm looking at, it's what broke my heart. You just don't think of details, because you don't have them ... I see [age] 5, and I think of my daughter."
Rudolph is the daughter of producer Richard Rudolph and singer Minnie Riperton, and shares four children with husband and director Paul Thomas Anderson. The actress said she appeared on the program after years of feeling "a little orphaned" by her mixed race identity.
"I have this thing where I just feel I can be anyone," she shared. "I know I'm from 'peoples,' but I don't know who they are. I want to know people's names. I want to know what they did, I want to know where they lived. I want to go as far back as possible."
Rudolph also learned of another slave ancestor who was denied his liberty and compensation in the 1830s after being freed following his owner's death. Her third great-grandfather challenged his owner's son in court and was granted his freedom.
"We always have a box of tissues," Finding Your Roots host Henry Louis Gates told People magazine. "Most guests cry, male and female ... You just don't know where that moment of complete empathy [will happen]. It's almost as if they are stepping inside the identity of an ancestor."
Finding Your Roots airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET, and will next feature Jimmy Kimmel, Norman Lear and Bill Hader. Rudolph came to fame on NBC sketch comedy series Saturday Night Live, and will star in CHiPS with Dax Shepard.