Yo-Yo Ma

Catch Yo-Yo Ma on Faces of America with Henry Louis Gates Jr. on PBS beginning Wednesday, February 24. A sneak peek is available online with full episodes being added to the website after their first air dates.

Yo-Yo was born in 1955 in Paris, France where his parents were working as struggling musicians. He began to study the cello with his father at age four and came with his family to New York two years later. While it is typical for Chinese families to keep a genealogy, Yo-Yo knew almost nothing of his family’s past. When the Faces of America research team began their search, it was believed that the Ma genealogy had been lost during the political turmoil of the Cultural Revolution. Its rediscovery by the team is an amazing tale of serendipitous circumstances. As it turns out, a cousin had hidden it in the walls of his home to save it from destruction. Yo-Yo’s direct paternal genealogy can be traced back 18 generations to the year 1217. The genealogy was compiled in the 18th century by an ancestor and contains naming traditions, a summary of the lineage and a genealogical chart of the generational ancestors. The genealogy traces all the people with the surname Ma, through the paternal line, back to one common ancestor who lived in the 3rd century BC.