Alanis Morissette Uncovers her Family’s Holocaust History
The seven-time Grammy Award winning, Ottawa-born musician Alanis Morissette uncovered shocking family secrets in season ten of the PBS program Finding Your Roots. The series features a team of researchers and genealogists who investigate information about celebrity backgrounds.
The singer was raised Catholic, and her mother’s Jewish heritage was revealed to her in her late 20s. Now a practicing Buddhist, Morissette has taken a deeper dive into the history of her ancestors.
Georgia Feuerstein, Morissette’s mother, kept her background a secret to protect her children from the horrors her own parents faced in Hungary and what is now Ukraine during the Holocaust in Hungary. “I think there was a terror in their bones and that they were being protective of us,” Morissette said.
Diving deeper into her family’s story on her PBS episode, Morissette discovered the harrowing truth of her past. She learned that her great-uncles, Georgie and Sandor Feuerstein, disappeared in the Holocaust alongside half a million Hungarian Jews. Her grandfather, Imre Feuerstein, escaped such a fate, coming to Canada with his family and severing all ties to his deeper roots in Hungary in 1956. He passed away in a car accident three months after Alanis Morissette’s birth.
Morissette’s relatives speculated that Georgie and Sandor were forced into a work battalion during WWII. The Finding Your Roots team learned through records at the World Holocaust Remembrance Center that the brothers died in the slave labour army sent to Russia.
Exploring every record she could get her hands on, Morissette was able to trace her lineage back to her great-great-grandfather, Isra Isel Bloomingcrant, who was born in 1845 in Galitzia, a part of the Austrian Empire.
Morissette has been left with a profound impact from her family discoveries. She stated that she is proud to be part of a community she has always been fascinated with. “I just think about their resilience and their ability to keep going in the face of tragedy,” she said. “It’s pretty poignant.”
Alanis Morissette is one rockstar to put Ottawa on the map. Neighbours of hers recall fond memories of her family since their emigration in 1956, including Canadian photographer Jean-Marc Carisse, a long-term friend of Georgia Feuerstein.
Understanding one’s ancestors can change one’s life. Morissette highlighted her joy in understanding more fully who she is, where she came from, and how we are all connected to a much larger world.
Watch a preview of PBS’s Finding Your Roots:
Header image: Courtesy PBS