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Sean Hayes discovers family secrets on ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’

Chicago native Sean Hayes delved into his family history and learned some startling information, especially about his estranged father, in an episode of “Who Do You Think You Are?,” airing Sunday on TLC.

The show, which partners with Ancestry.com to provide the background information, helped the actor and producer uncover a number of salient facts about his paternal background — most of it tied to Chicago.

Hayes visits Cook County Hospital, the Chicago History Museum and Cook County Circuit Court and is shown photos and various pieces of information about what was once called Chicago’s Skid Row (today’s very gentrified West Loop neighborhood) from back in the 1930s and ’40s, where Hayes’ grandfather lived and died.

Not only did Hayes’ father abandon his family when the future Hollywood star was a small boy, the actor’s grandfather followed a similar path a generation earlier. In both cases, drugs and alcohol played a role.

In the case of Sean’s grandfather, William Hayes, we learn that he was once quite successful but ended up dying on Skid Row, done in by his addiction to alcohol. The younger Hayes also learned that at the time of his grandfather’s death, his grandmother was an invalid, perhaps leading to his father and his siblings being raised in an orphanage.

On a postiive note, Sean Hayes’ delving into his family history — much of it unpleasant and sad — made him realize his own life proves one can break the cycle of addiction, poor decision-making and economic circumstances.