Your genealogy can offer a fascinating new perspective on family history. Famous people seem to agree, and the rise of reality television means fans can discover new information about their favorite stars alongside them.
Celebrities on Finding Your Roots can trace their lineage back generations with the help of host Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Revelations from Finding Your Roots range from the random, like Tina Fey's distant connection to Ben Franklin, to the horrible, like Ben Affleck's relatives owning slaves. Similarly, celebrities on Who Do You Think You Are? also uncover new branches of their family trees. The show followed Susan Sarandon as she discovered her grandmother's scandalous past, and connected Sarah Jessica Parker to a colonial tragedy. And then there's Brooke Shields – a dive into her family's past revealed a surprising royal pedigree.
From shocking secrets to funny coincidences, here are the most jaw-dropping celebrity revelations from Who Do You Think You Are? and Finding Your Roots.
Friends actress Courteney Cox is descended from an intriguing historical figure. Her eighteenth great-grandfather, as revealed on Who Do You Think You Are?, was Thomas de Berkeley, Baron de Berkeley, a medieval English nobleman. De Berkeley was best known for holding King Edward II captive in his castle after the monarch was forced off the throne. Edward died while he was imprisoned, and though Berkeley may have been involved in his death, he was acquitted of any crime.
On Who Do You Think You Are?, actress Brooke Shields investigated her father's royal past. Her paternal grandmother was Donna Marina Torlonia, an Italian princess whose brother married into the Spanish royal family. But this family wasn't always royal; in fact, it was founded by a wealthy cloth merchant-turned-banker. Through this grandmother, Shields is related to pretty much every European monarch.
Sarah Jessica Parker starred as a witch in Hocus Pocus, but it turns out she has real-life witchy ancestry. On Who Do You Think You Are?, Parker discovered her 10th great-grandma was condemned as a witch at the Salem Witch Trials. This 17th-century woman, Esther Elwell, was rumored to have been spotted with ghostly figures, pressing down on a woman who later died. Thankfully, Elwell didn't go to trial because prosecution for witchcraft had been outlawed shortly before the accusations against her came to light.
Comedian, actress, and writer Tina Fey made an intriguing discovery on Finding Your Roots. Her great-great-great-great-great-grandfather, John Hewson, came to America from England. Why? His old pal Benjamin Franklin advised him to do so. Hewson moved to Philadelphia, PA, Franklin's stomping grounds.