Thirty-nine lashes “well laid” on her bare back and an extension of her indentured servitude was Elizabeth Banks’s punishment for “fornication & Bastardy with a negroe slave,” according to a stark June 20, 1683, court document from York County, Va. That record and others led to the recent discovery that Banks, a free white woman despite her servitude, was the paternal ninth great-grandmother of Wanda Sykes, the ribald comedian and actress.

The unique thing about Wanda is that she descends from 10 generations of free Virginia mulattos, which is more rare than descendants of mixed-race African-Americans who descend from English royalty. More than 1,000 mixed-race children were born to white women in colonial Virginia and Maryland, but their existence has been erased from oral and written history.

Ms. Sykes’s family history was professionally researched for “Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates Jr.,” a new series that has its debut Sunday on PBS.

Wanda Sykes

Wanda Sykes

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/20/arts/television/wanda-sykes-finds-ancestors-thanks-to-henry-louis-gates-jr.html?_r=1&nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20120320