Jesse Tyler Ferguson grew up in Albuquerque and thought he knew plenty about his family. Yet he never really knew the whole story.
This is what led Ferguson – who stars on the TV comedy “Modern Family” – to be featured on TLC’s “Who Do You Think You Are?”
The Emmy-nominated series delves into the personal family histories of some of the most public names. Some previous celebrities featured have been Matthew Broderick, Lisa Kudrow, Rob Lowe, Reba McEntire, Tim McGraw and others. Ferguson’s episode will air at 7 tonight on TLC.
In the episode, Ferguson follows his great-grandfather’s unprecedented expedition to the Alaskan Klondike. He traces the path of the ambitious trip on a boat trip up a river among snow-capped mountains and learns that his great-grandfather’s journey was an arduous one, where many of his men were lost. He also discovers a shocking crime within his family.
Ferguson wanted to go on the show because he had very limited knowledge of his family history.
“I got married last year, and we would like to start a family in the near future,” he says. “I like the idea of being able to pass along as much history as possible to my next of kin. The adventure was enticing.”
Going into the show, Ferguson was already a fan of previous seasons. In fact, his friends Cynthia Nixon, Jim Parsons and Rashida Jones had all done episodes.
“They all told me that it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I should jump at if ever offered,” he says. “And it was!”
Ferguson compares being featured on the show to being on a game show and having to choose a door and find what’s behind it.
“There is a sense of jumping off a cliff when you start the show. I came across a lot of information that was hard to hear,” he says. “For me, and I can only speak for myself, the process was only enlightening. I can’t feel responsible or even terribly connected to things that happened in my family before I was born.”
Ferguson says he was nervous about what he didn’t know and the information that would reveal itself.
The episode was filmed in April, right after he finished the fifth season of “Modern Family.”
“I was slightly nervous about my parents’ reaction to what I was learning,” he says. “They are one generation closer to the story I was unveiling.”
Ferguson says his whole family can’t wait for the show and he’s only told one person the details. “I told my sibling about the entire experience but I am letting my parents experience the journey by watching the show,” he says. “Everything is more entertaining after going through a fancy editing process.”