Kate Winslet was both heartbroken and relieved when she learned of her sometimes-destitute ancestry.
The Oscar winner appeared on BBC's "Who Do You Think You Are," where she learned that her maternal great-great-grandfather immigrated to the U.K. from Sweden to work as a tailor, making her what she says is "basically an immigrant," while her great-great-great-great-grandfather, Anders Jonsson, and wife Anna were slaves in Sweden.
Jonsson was imprisoned for stealing potatoes to feed his family. One of Jonsson's five children died from malnutrition, and Jonsson himself had a tragic ending to his life.
“I was sobbing my heart out at this point. His wife couldn’t even produce milk for their baby because she was starving," Winslet told The Radio Times. “And then I found out that Anders was sentenced to 35 lashes and had to stand in front of the local church to be ridiculed by everyone. He died in prison of typhoid before his appeal was heard.”
The actress revealed that she approached the BBC program when her mother, Sally, was on her deathbed and had begun to tell Winslet about her extremely humble Scandinavian roots. Sally died from ovarian cancer in 2017.
“I come from a long line of impoverished people on both sides of my family, which perhaps explains why I’ve tried to instill my parents’ values into my kids," Winslet said. “People never believe me, but my children aren’t over-privileged. We just don’t live like that. They are very balanced. Humble.”
Winslet has three children: Daughter Mia, 18, with Jim Threapleton, Joe Alfie Winslet Mendes, 15, with director Sam Mendes, and 5-year-old Bear Blaze Winslet with Sir Richard Branson's nephew Ned Rocknroll.
"My roots are socialist, working class and, in a funny way, my parents frowned upon the wealthy," she said. "Mum and Dad went to Oxford for their honeymoon and we always had holidays out of the back of the van with a tent."