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.
- Video: YouTube
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.447216Did this surprise you?
- Video: YouTube
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.403191Did this surprise you?
- Photo: Featureflash / Shutterstock
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.599318Did this surprise you?
- Photo: Jesse Grant / Getty Images
Political talk show hosts Bill Maher and Bill O'Reilly hold many conflicting views, but it turns out they're actually cousins, according to Finding Your Roots. The two share a common Y-chromosome (male-line) ancestor from Middle Ages and Renaissance Ireland.
Maher said, "It just shows you what a great place America is. Because we're about as opposite as you can possibly get."
O'Reilly responded, "Oh, geez. You're going to have to put him on 24-hour medical watch. This ruins his career. This destroys him."508267Did this surprise you?