Season Three of Who Do You Think You Are on NBC premiered this evening beginning at 8p.m. It featured actor/ political activist, Martin Sheen.
Martin Sheen via here.
With a career that spans more than half a century, Martin Sheen is one of the greatest icons of our time, both as an actor and activist. Sheen himself states, "I've been arrested more times than I can count!"
The father of four children, actor Charlie Sheen, vintner Emilio Estevez, son Ramon, and daughter Renee, Sheen states he'd like to find out more about his heritage for the sake of his children.
Born Ramon Antonio Gerard Estevez, his paternal line runs from Spain, while his maternal through Ireland.
Sheen's mother, Mary Ann Phelan was born in Ireland and died in 1951 at the age of 48, when Sheen was but a boy of 11. Her brother, Michael Phelan holds a particular interest for Sheen, as family lore has it that he was an activist.
So Sheen was off to Dublin, Ireland after a search through Ancestry.com didn't lend him any clues.
He begins his search at the Military Archives to see what, if any, involvement his Uncle Michael had in the Irish Civil War.
Michael Phelan's Pension Application was found for service from 12 Jul 1922 to 30 Jul 1923. He fought the IRA for the Republic. And he was imprisoned on several different occasions.
Dr. Edward Madigan at the Pearse Center stated that very staunch fighters simply would not accept the signing of the Irish Treaty to end the Civil War. According to Madigan, Phelan was committed to not only the Republic, but also to being in the epicenter of the activity. Madigan describes his activity as "organized disobedience"; and as "a man of conviction; a brave man".
From the Pearse Center, Sheen travels to Kilmainham Jail where Uncle Michael had been held.
"I am enormously proud of him," says Sheen after walking through the gaol, and visiting the cell where it is believed Phelan was held.
One can visibly see the pride swelling in Sheen's eyes, and on his face.
He is now headed to Spain, particularly Madrid, to discover his Estevez side of the family. He stops first to see his sister, Carmen, who shows him photographs of the Estevez childen when they were quite young. We get a glimpse of a very small young boy, who is separate from the little group of children, and is sitting on the steps, peeking round a balustrade at the camera. Obviously a shy little one.
Sheen's grandparents, Manuel Estevez and Dolores had seven children. Their youngest, Matias was arrested as a Communist during the Spanish Civil War. He vocally and physically opposed the fascist regime of Franco.
Sheen heads to the Biblioteca Nationale and Dr. Alejandro Quieroga, who after researching found Matias mentioned in a pro-Franco book. We read that Matias was known by the fascists as el Rato - the mouse.
In 1936 at the start of the Civil War he was arrested and imprisoned. He was held and taken before a military tribunal. When tried, he was convicted and sentenced. He was condemned to life imprisonment.
He was imprisoned at the island of San Simon. A place literally meant to sanitize the nation of any dissidents. He spent one year there, until 1937, when he was sent to San Cristobal at Pamploma. Released in 1940, but to be held under surveillance [much like house arrest] until 1966.
Sheen headed to Pamploma and San Cristobal. Dr. Julius Ruiz met him there. They explored the prison which at one point held over 2,500 prisoners, in a space meant to hold a mere few hundred. This brick structure reminded me of the English dungeons one finds on old castle tours in Great Britain. Small windows sat high in the walls, with no panes, open to the elements - burning heat in the summer, and frigid freezing temps in the winter. Light shone only directly beneath the windows and did not penetrate the farther recesses of the spaces. And this man was condemned originally to life in this place. Many individuals did not make it out of here. Those that did, resembled the individuals who survived Dachau or Auschwitz or Buchenwald.
Sheen described both of his uncles as, "Ideally tough, and deeply human."
Speaking of Estevez, he stated, "They denigrated him by calling him el Rato - which means the Mouse. But he outlived them, He survived. And he really is 'the Mouse that Roared'. God bless him!"
In an attempt to dig even farther back, Sheen heads for Tui with a copy of his father's birth record he received from his sister, Carmen. Francisco Estevez was the son of Manuel Estevez and Delores Martinez. Awaiting Sheen was research that lead him back to the 1700's to Don Diego Francisco Suarez, and his gr-gr-gr-gr-gr-gr grandmother, Maria Gonzalez.
The research assistant pointed out their daughter Paolo in her marriage record. What made this record somewhat unique, was that she was listed as "the natural born" daughter of Don Diego Suarez, whereas her spouse was listed as the "legitimate son" of his parents. He quickly explained that a natural born child was one that was considered illegitimate, while a legitimate meant that the parents were married. To provide proof of this, a marriage record was found for Don Diego Suarez to Manuella alFaya. While he was not married to Maria Gonzalez, it seems the couple happily went on procreating, and had at least five more children!
At this point, Sheen is headed to the Regional Archives at A Coruna.
It seems that here we find a legal record of Don Diego Francisco Suarez as being a judge. He was, in fact, the highest legal authority in the town. And before us we read of a case of a young woman named Anotnia Perriera, who has committed the act of adultery with someone of benign authority; perhaps a priest. She finds herself pregnant and goes to the local mid-wife, where she seeks a remedy. Most likely an alchemy abortion. And it is because of this abortion that a warrant is issued against her.
Shown this information, a scroll is produced with Sheen's family tree. Here he finds Don Diego Suarez and Maria Gonzalez, and then he is fast forwarded 150 years to, to his Estevz family, and in tracing them back, he finds that his gr-gr-grandfather Ramon Etevez was married to his gr-gr-grandmother, Antonia Perrier!
The family tree had literally come full circle to him at that point.
Sheen commented on the resiliency of Antonia who had had a warrant issued against her, but who went on to legitimize her life, and become his ancestor!
In closing Sheen met with his sister, Carmen, and his son, Ramon, and shared his findings with them.
"You couldn't have written this, or scripted this outcome if you had wanted to!" exclaimed Ramon.
I'm sure there was a sparkle of a tear in Sheen's eye, and that of his son and sister.
I know there was in mine!
If you haven't viewed this program yet, be sure to be watching next Friday evening on NBC when WDYTYA will be assisting actress Marissa Tormei in finding her ancestors.