Looking for Family 40 Years After Jonestown, Pt. 1

14 min
The Jonestown memorial at Evergreen Cemetery in Oakland. More than 900 people, most from the Bay Area, committed mass suicide on Nov. 18, 1978, at Jonestown. (J.P. Dobrin/KQED)

40 years ago this month, more than 900 people—mostly from the Bay Area—died in Jonestown, a remote settlement in the South American country of Guyana. They were members of the People’s Temple, led by Jim Jones, a charismatic white man who preached racial equality, through a kind of socialism. But Jones became increasingly paranoid and unhinged, eventually orchestrating what he called an act of revolutionary suicide, telling his followers to drink cyanide-laced punch.

In part one of this two-part story, KQED reporter Tara Siler tells the story of one man determined to trace his own family connection back to Jonestown, even when others ask him: "Do you really want to know?"