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Van Halen rocker Sammy Hagar discovers he’s not actually a Hagar on “Finding Your Roots”

Van Halen rocker Sammy Hagar discovers he’s not actually a Hagar on “Finding Your Roots”


Van Halen rocker Sammy Hagar is the latest celebrity to uncover the hidden secrets attached to his family lineage. And what he found was that his name, his very identity, has been a lie that spans generations.

On Tuesday’s “Finding Your Roots,” the musician first discusses the complicated nature of his childhood with host Henry Louis Gates, Jr., growing up in an abusive household because his father was an alcoholic.

Through the show’s extensive research, Gates reveals that Hagar’s maternal great-grandfather Giacomo Alessi was a fruit dealer in New York. Yet it turns out that fruit dealing is more dangerous than anyone may have expected. In 1899, Joseph Alessi was involved in a shoot-out with a man over $13. The man died from the shooting, and Alessi was imprisoned for 12 years.

“They’re mobsters!” Hagar said of the reveal. Gates agreed, saying the Alessi family were “mobsters of a sort.”

While that mobster revelation was a shock for Hagar, the biggest reveal was yet to come. It turns out that the musician’s lineage contained one very important deception.

“Sammy, genetically you are not a Hagar,” Gates told him.

“Get out of here,” Hagar said in disbelief. “This is as nutty as anything I’ve ever imagined.”

On Hagar’s paternal side, DNA tests showed that he had no genetic links to the Hagar family. The chart literally listed the percentage as “Zero.” However, Gates revealed that Hagar’s DNA matched 27 other men . . . with the same surname Belcher.

“You are Sammy Belcher,” Gates stated.

“What a trip!” Hagar said.

The show’s best guess was the only way this was possible was if a female member of his family had a child with someone named Belcher instead of a Hagar. The researchers traced the probable event back to his great-great-grandmother, who has hadn’t technically divorced her husband but had separated from him, raising her kids on her own.

“It’s so sad because thank God for DNA otherwise — I don’t know how much it really matters or what it means at my age but if I was a young man . . . You might think ‘Yeah I want to meet some of these people,'” Hagar said.

Additionally, the show traced the Belcher family back to the American Revolutionary War.

“Are you glad to know this?” Gates asked.

“I’m so happy to know this. This gives me so much mind-chewing — man, my mind’s gonna work on this like a mouse on a wheel of cheese.” Hagar said.

Ultimately, Hagar said Gates will have to come back to check on him in six months for his real, processed emotions on all this new information on his family. But he added, “I love it. I am excited. It’s exhilarating. I won’t be able to sleep for a month because I am going to be rolling this stuff around in my head or reading through this book. I just can’t wait to show this to my sisters. They are going to freak out,” he said.

“Finding Your Roots” airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET on PBS.

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