It seems Ann Curry has been on a journey of self-discovery since leaving Today in 2012. Most recently, she’s been trying to solve a mystery for her late dad. “My father, his entire life, had a great sadness because he was considered illegitimate,” she recently said at the Summer Television Critics Association conference in LA on July 31. “His whole life he wanted to know who his father was.” 

Ann, 61, felt crushed when Bob Curry died of cancer in 2008, and without finding the answer. “When he died, that was the one sadness I couldn’t get over,” she said. “So I thought, I’m going to do it for Dad.” Her quest — documented in the new season of the PBS show Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates Jr., returning in January — taught her a lot. 

“Not only did we learn about my father’s father,” she said, “we learned that we come from people who fled the potato famine, [and] from people who have been in this country since the 1600s!” The discoveries were “a revelation,” Ann explained, “because I’m from a Japanese immigrant mother who came as a war bride after WWII.” 

Like her father, Ann said questions about her heritage have been painful. “All my life I’ve been asked, being multiracial, ‘What are you anyway?'” she revealed. But now she has answers, including that one of her ancestors was named Thankful. “She came to America in 1649,” Ann marveled, “and was named Thankful because she survived the journey on the boat.” 

View this post on Instagram

Sunset New York City just now.

A post shared by Ann Curry (@anncurry) on

Learning your ancestors’ stories “informs how you think about your family and what you have gone through and a well of empathy awakens in you for people you don’t know,” said Ann, who tackles other personal journeys on her PBS series We’ll Meet Again, which returns in October. “Now I recognize that the thing that makes you different is actually the thing that makes you special.”

For more on your favorite stars, pick up the latest issue of Closer Weekly, on newsstands now — and be sure to sign up for our newsletter for exclusive news!