It doesn't get more Massachusetts than this.

Actor Jesse Williams, who grew up in Dartmouth, learned something wild when he guested on PBS genealogy series Finding Your Roots. An ancestor on his mother's side was a key player in the Salem Witch Trials of the 1690s.

Host Henry Louis Gates Jr., a Cambridge resident, revealed that Joseph Herrick was the Grey's Anatomy star's eighth-great-grandfather. Herrick was the chief lawman in Salem during the witch hysteria, responsible for arresting some of the first women accused of witchcraft.

Williams had a simple initial response to the mindblowing news: "Whoa."

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More than 200 people were accused of being witches in the 17th-century hysteria and 19 were hanged. Today, Salem is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Northeast, especially around Halloween.

Williams, 42, seemed surprised to learn that Herrick, who died in the early 1700s, was a slaveowner. He also learned of an enslaved ancestor on his father's side, July Hadley. The Finding Your Roots team found the exact Georgia cottonfield where Hadley had worked.

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"It makes me want to go touch it," Williams told Gates while looking at a map. "It makes me want to go be there."

Hadley's son, Isaac, was Williams' great-great-grandfather. He lived long enough to be a free man who learned to read, owned land, married and raised six children.

"This is an incredible turn of events despite just unfathomable opposition," Williams said. "Wow. Wow."

Born in Chicago, Williams grew up in Dartmouth, the son of town artist Johanna Chase. He attended Moses Brown School in Providence and later studied filmmaking at Temple University in Philadelphia. He is perhaps best-known for playing Dr. Jackson Avery on long-running ABC drama Grey's Anatomy, for which he won a NAACP Image Award and was nominated for four People's Choice Awards.

He also won a BET Humanitarian Award in 2016.

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