40 Iconic Stars Whose Ancestors Made It Into The History Books

Genealogical research has helped many people uncover their family histories, including the rich and famous. Because some of our favorite celebrities – Obama, Beyonce, and Hanks included – have downright amazing lineages that you just wouldn’t have thought up. So who’s related to the Queen? Who counts Churchill as a cousin? And who has Ernest Hemingway in their bloodline? You’ll have to read on to find out.

40. Sigourney Weaver – King Henry I

King Henry I, the fourth son of William the Conqueror, ruled over England from 1100 until he died in 1135. He had two children with his wife, Matilda of Scotland, as well as several out-of-wedlock babies. From one of them descended Alien actress and Oscar nominee Sigourney Weaver, who’s also 24th cousin of Queen Elizabeth because of her relation to the turn-of-the-12th-century king.

39. Johnny Depp – Queen Elizabeth II

Three-time Academy Award nominee Johnny Depp is well-known for his ability to play wacky characters – Pirates of the Caribbean’s Captain Jack Sparrow, anyone? But the star has a much more polished background than that. Because genealogist Dr. Nick Barratt confirmed to the Sunday Mirror in 2011 that Depp was a cousin 20 times removed of England’s reigning monarch, Queen Elizabeth II.

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38. Sarah Jessica Parker – Esther Elwell

The name Esther Elwell may not be instantly familiar, but you’ve certainly heard of the Salem Witch Trials. Elwell narrowly escaped prosecution in the famous 17th century witch hunt, which gave her the chance to become a mother, grandmother and, eventually, the tenth great-grandmother of actress Sarah Jessica Parker. So we now know that her performance in Hocus Pocus carried a lot more weight than we initially thought.

37. Armie Hammer – Chief Kanagatucko

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Armie Hammer played a lawman-turned-outlaw in the Disney feature film, The Lone Ranger. In honor of the flick – and another of its main characters, a Native American named Tonto – Ancestry.com explored the star’s background. And its researchers found that Hammer’s eighth great-grandfather was Chief Kanagatucko, a Cherokee leader who advocated for peace during the French and Indian War.

36. Rose Leslie – King Charles II

King Charles II sat on the English, Scottish and Irish throne after the monarchy’s 1660 Restoration, and he remained in charge until his 1685 death. One of his living descendants is Game of Thrones actress Rose Leslie who traces her bloodline to the former monarch through her mother’s side. And Leslie’s married Kit Harington, who’s her very, very distant cousin because he’s also a modern relative of the same king.

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35. Harry Lloyd – Charles Dickens

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Game of Thrones fans will also remember Harry Lloyd, who starred as Viserys Targaryen on the epic fantasy series. In real life, he has a noteworthy family, too, since his lineage traces back to great-great-grandfather and literary great Charles Dickens. Lloyd has even starred as Herbert Pocket in a miniseries adaptation of his ancestor’s novel, Great Expectations.

34. Meryl Streep – William Penn

Many consider Meryl Streep to be the best actress of her generation, and her awards’ cabinet doesn’t lie. But she’s not the only noteworthy figure in her family tree. Her mother’s side has strong ties to Pennsylvania – they were distant relatives of William Penn, the state’s founder and namesake.

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33. Hugh Grant – King Henry VII and King James IV

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Romantic comedy star Hugh Grant doesn’t just have English charm – he has royal blood, too. His family tree traces all the way back to two important monarchs: King Henry VII and King James IV. Henry VII sat on the English throne from 1485 to 1509 after winning his title in battle, the last royal to do so. Meanwhile, King James IV was the last British monarch to die in battle in 1513.

32. Cary Elwes – John Elwes

Fans know Cary Elwes from classics like The Princess Bride and Robin Hood: Men in Tights. Turns out, he’s not the only character in the family. His bloodline traces back to former Member of Parliament, John Elwes, who may not be a well-known figure in English history. But he is said to have inspired a famous fictional character for his frugality: Charles Dickens’ Ebenezer Scrooge, the protagonist of A Christmas Carol.

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31. Val Kilmer – Joyce Kilmer

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Val Kilmer has starred in classics such as Top Gun and Batman Forever. Off-screen, he advocates for social issues, especially Native American affairs and environmentalism. And on that note, he has a famous relative in cousin Joyce Kilmer, a WWI-era poet best known for a sentimental piece called “Trees.”

30. George Clooney – Abraham Lincoln

Perhaps the most revered president in American history shares a bit of his bloodline with Oscar winner and on-screen heartthrob, George Clooney. The actor is the former commander-in-chief’s half-first cousin, five times removed. Although this is a distant bond, the two are said to share at least one major similarity – an affinity for animals. Lincoln refused to fish or hunt, while Clooney is open about his love for his adopted pooch, Einstein.

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29. Kate Middleton – George Washington

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She may be the future Queen of England, but Kate Middleton has lots of interesting ties to American history in her family’s bloodline. She’s the eighth cousin, seven times removed of the first President of the United States, George Washington. The Duchess is also related to “The Star-Spangled Banner” lyricist Francis Scott Key, WWII General George Patton and Meriwether Lewis, one half of famous explorer duo Lewis and Clark.

28. Ralph and Joseph Fiennes – King James II

Brothers Ralph and Joseph Fiennes have both made names for themselves in Hollywood. The former is well-known for starring as Lord Voldemort in the Harry Potter films, while the latter starred in Shakespeare in Love. But the Fiennes’ family tree traces back to King James II of Scotland, who reigned from 1437 until 1460. Having him as an ancestor means they are also eighth cousins of Prince Charles, who is a descendant of the Scottish monarch.

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27. Tilda Swinton – Robert the Bruce

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Tilda Swinton nabbed an Oscar in 2007 for her supporting role in Michael Clayton. The actress’s impressive story began centuries before that, though. A glimpse into her family tree reveals that she’s a direct descendant of Scottish king Robert the Bruce, who fought for the country’s independence in the 14th century.

26. Robert Pattinson – Count Dracula

Robert Pattinson became the ultimate teen heartthrob when he took on the role of vampire Edward Cullen in The Twilight Saga. Genealogy experts at Ancestry.com then traced the actor’s lineage to find that, DNA-wise, he was the perfect person to play the fanged character. He is a distant relative of Vlad III Dracula, the heartless leader who ruled in the 15th century and from whom Bram Stoker drew inspiration for his character, Count Dracula.

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25. Uma Thurman – King Edward I

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Many people consider Uma Thurman to be Quentin Tarantino’s muse – she has starred in his hit films, Pulp Fiction and the Kill Bill series. What’s less widely known is that she’s 21st cousins with Queen Elizabeth thanks to her family bloodline, which traces back to King Edward I of England. The 13th century monarch reformed common law and revamped his royal administration during a 35-year reign.

24. Alec Baldwin – Æthelred the Unready

Æthelred the Unready ascended to the English throne in 978 A.D. at the age of 12, but the descriptor “unready” doesn’t refer to his age. Instead, it derives from an Old English word unrædthat means “poorly advised.” And the one-time king has a now-famous descendant in actor Alec Baldwin.

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23. Hilary Duff – King Edward III and Queen Elizabeth

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The website FindMyPast.com deemed Lizzie McGuire actress Hilary Duff “America’s most royal celebrity” because of her crown-filled family tree. She’s the 18th cousin of Queen Elizabeth II thanks to ancestor and British Army officer Alexander Spotswood. But Spotswood also ties the actress to King Edward III, as he was the monarch’s 10th great-grandson.

22. Mitt Romney – Franklin D. Roosevelt

Mitt Romney’s bid for the presidency in 2012 wasn’t unprecedented, considering his family tree. Tracing his bloodline reveals that the Utah Senator and one-time Governor of Massachusetts is related to six presidents: Franklin D. Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, Franklin Pierce, and both George H.W. and George W. Bush.

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21. Maggie and Jake Gyllenhaal – King Edward III

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Sister-and-brother Maggie and Jake Gyllenhaal each have Academy Award nominations under their belts. But the accomplished siblings take the term “Hollywood royalty” to a different level, if you look at their family tree. They’re descendents of King Edward III, who reigned over England from 1327 until 1377. This makes them 19th cousins of Queen Elizabeth II, too.

20. Brad Pitt – King Henry II

Another huge Hollywood star, another important monarch in England’s history: in this case, we have Fight Club’s Brad Pitt and King Henry II. The latter ascended to the throne in 1154 and set out to restore properties and privileges which his grandfather, King Henry I, had had. Like many others on the list, Pitt’s relation to King Henry II makes him a distant relative of Queen Elizabeth II’s. In his case, he’s her 25th cousin.

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19. Anderson Cooper – Cornelius Vanderbilt

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Cornelius Vanderbilt changed the face of American transportation – and made the equivalent of $185 billion – by investing in railroads. His great-great-granddaughter was the fashion icon, designer and heiress Gloria Vanderbilt. And she had a son named Anderson Cooper, who now delivers the news on CNN.

18. Zooey Deschanel – Louis IV

Zooey Deschanel graced TV screens between 2011 and 2018 as Jess Day on New Girl. More than 1,000 years before her debut on the sitcom, her ancestor Louis IV graced France with his presence – as king of the European nation. Yes, his reign stretched from 936 until 954.

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17. Kit Harington – Robert Catesby

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Brits celebrate Bonfire Night every November thanks to Robert Catesby. He devised the Gunpowder Plot, a botched plan to restore Catholics’ religious freedoms by assassinating King James I in 1605. Kit Harrington is a direct descendant of the infamous plotter – his mother’s maiden name and his middle name is Catesby. And the actor had a chance to get even closer to the historical figure – he played him in a 2017 BBC drama called Gunpowder.

16. Ellen DeGeneres – King Edward III and a current royal, too

King Edward III’s name comes up a lot on this list – indeed, the military genius who made England into a formidable world power has lots of descendants in Hollywood today. One of them is talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, who has a cousin in the modern monarchy, too. She and Kate Middleton are 15th cousins, as they share a common ancestor in Sir Thomas Fairfax.

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15. Helena Bonham Carter – Violet Bonham Carter

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Violet Bonham Carter’s father, H.H. Asquith, served as England’s Prime Minister from 1908 until 1916. But she became a leading voice in the Liberal party herself, and Parliament made her a life peer for it. Her granddaughter, Helena Bonham Carter, paved her own path, albeit in a different place – Hollywood. There, she frequently collaborates with director Tim Burton and has earned an Academy Award nomination.

14. Brooke Shields – King Henry IV

Actress Brooke Shields has been in Hollywood for decades but is perhaps best known for her work in the 1980 movie Blue Lagoon. And one of her famous ancestors inspired a theatrical work by one of the greats. William Shakespeare wrote a drama in honor of King Henry IV, the 15th century monarch to whom Shields can trace her family lineage.

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13. Tom Hanks – King John

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Queen Elizabeth has another famous cousin in Tom Hanks, the beloved actor whose credits range from Forrest Gump to You’ve Got Mail to Toy Story. He’s 24th cousin to the reigning British monarch by way of their common ancestor, King John, who lost most of England’s territory in France during his turn-of-the-13th-century rule.

12. Bill Paxton – Benjamin Sharp

Bill Paxton passed away in 2017, but the Terminator and Twister actor’s legacy lives on in Hollywood. In life he had more than just a thriving silver-screen career – he had a strong family history, too. Because Ancestry.com’s Pro Genealogists discovered the actor was related to American patriot Benjamin Sharp, who served as both a spy and soldier during the Revolutionary War.

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11. Sophia Loren – Benito Mussolini

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Sophia Loren smoldered on screen during the Golden Age of Hollywood. Behind the scenes, though, the actress had familial links to Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. Fortunately, the pair were just in-laws: her sister, Maria Scicolone, married his son, Romano Mussolini.

10. George W. Bush – Pocahontas

The 43rd President of the United States has ties to one of the country’s most famous natives. Ancestry.com revealed via BuzzFeed that George W. Bush’s eighth great-grandfather, Robert Bolling, married a woman named Jane Wolfe. Her grandmother was Pocahontas, meaning Bush is one of her distant relatives, too.

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9. Rashida Jones – Betty Washington Lewis

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Many people know that Rashida Jones has a famous father in legendary producer, jazz musician and bandleader Quincy Jones. But both of the Joneses descend from an interesting genealogical line that includes Betty Washington Lewis, the sister of the nation’s first president, George Washington. King Edward I is also in their bloodline.

8. Angelina Jolie – Phillip II

Tracing Angelina Jolie’s family history through her mother Marie Bertrand’s side will eventually bring you to French royalty. It will take a while, because the family’s royal relative, King Phillip II, ruled in the 12th century. That means that the star is related to Louis VII and Marie of France, the father and half-sister of Phillip, respectively.

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7. Bill Hader – Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne

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Bill Hader made a name for himself on Saturday Night Live before going on to star in numerous Hollywood comedies. As he grew in popularity, he got the chance to trace his genealogy on the TV show Finding Your Roots. After finding out that the Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne is his 40th great-great grandfather, Hader said, “I mean, the conqueror of Europe? I couldn’t even get the coffeemaker to work this morning.”

6. Benedict Cumberbatch – Richard III

Experts uncovered the remains of King Richard III beneath a parking lot in Leicester, England. One of the same scientists who identified the remains went on to trace the 15th-century monarch’s family tree and found he had a famous descendant: Sherlock actor Benedict Cumberbatch. The pair are second cousins, 16 times removed.

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5. Cindy Crawford – Ernest Hemingway

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Model Cindy Crawford appeared on the TV series Who Do You Think You Are in 2013 to settle a family rumor. She knew she had a great-great-great-grandfather named Frank Hemingway, and some of her relatives claimed that he was related to the famed The Sun Also Rises writer. And on the show she found out that the story was true.

4. Ozzy Osbourne – Jesse James

A look into Ozzy Osbourne’s family history is just as colorful as, well, the family he stands alongside today. Scientists gathered the rocker’s DNA and found that he has ties to a Neanderthal, as well as the final Tsar of Russia, Nicholas II. But perhaps the most fitting of all was that the Diary of a Madman singer is related to outlaw Jesse James, too.

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3. Beyonce – Gustav Mahler

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Research into Beyonce’s family history has connected her to another musical genius, albeit someone in a completely different genre. Queen Bey is the eighth cousin, removed a quartet of times, from Viennese composer Gustav Mahler. His work changed the symphonic world, while hers has suggested that girls run the world. So we should have seen the family resemblance sooner.

2. Meghan Markle – Winston Churchill

Some Brits may not have loved an American woman joining the ranks of the royal family. But as genealogy-centric website MyHeritage.com found, the Suits actress actually has more ties to the United Kingdom than just her husband, Prince Harry. She is the sixth cousin, five times removed, of former British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill.

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1. Barack Obama – King Edward and a lot of other U.S. Presidents

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The 44th President of the United States was destined for his leadership role – just look at his bloodline. Barack Obama is King Edward I of England’s 23rd great-grandson. Not only does that make him a royal descendant, but it makes him a relative to a slew of other men who have sat in the oval office, including Gerald Ford, James Madison and George W. Bush.

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