Genealogy can be a real trip. Explore the family tree back far enough and you're guaranteed to come across a few head-scratching details.

Sometimes it's a scandalous pregnancy, or maybe a secret marriage. Tales of stowaways are not unheard of. And then, of course, there are the famous great-uncles or even older matriarchs, notable for some outlandish 1800s behavior.


One Reddit question brought plenty of ancestral discoveries to the surface.

Household names carry long lineages, and some folks are proud to call themselves distant cousins to a legend. For some, it's the more obscure kind of fame: an absurd crime or a coincidental collision with a historical event.

But they are all good stories. They make the historical past feel a bit more human and relatable. After all, these ancestors were simply people like us, full of schemes and blunders. They may have had different wars and technologies, but the resemblance is easy to spot.

DreamSailor01 asked, "Do you have a famous ancestor? If so, what were they known for?"

One of those Faces

"I'm related to the bald guy who posed for the "American Gothic" painting with the pitchfork."

"I looked it up, and it turns out he's my fourth cousin, twice removed."

-- Hysterical_Realist

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Namesakes

"One of my great-great-great grand fathers was Chang Bunker, who was conjoined at the stomach to his brother, Eng. They were born in Siam (now known as Thailand) became famous for being in the P.T. Barnum's circus."

"The term 'Siamese Twins' comes from them."

-- SKW1DZ

Generational Change

"Johann Jakob Astor"

"John Jacob Astor was a German–American businessman, merchant, real estate mogul and investor who mainly made his fortune in a fur trade monopoly and by investing in real estate in or around New York City."

"Known for: First multi-millionaire businessman in the United States."

"Still living in his home town and he is still sort of getting glorified here."

"I'm poor though."

-- Pandafishe

A Sequel?!

"My uncle is a Power Ranger, you may know him as the green ranger or Jason David Frank."

"He's known as a Power Ranger and is working on another Kickstarter movie and even has his own karate class."

-- Nuclear_Blade1

A Historic Schemer

"I have an uncle who is the reason DUI breathalyzer ignitions have a timer because he would drive to the bar and let it idle while he drank." -- williebobthornton

"He's the problem AND the problem solver. Excellent." -- Mercurial8

"Your uncle is Jean Ralphio Saperstein? You know your boy is a question on the bar exam, right?" -- adjust_the_sails

Dying Industries

"Great-grandfather on my mom's side was a samurai. He emigrated to America because that was the point Japan didn't need samurai anymore."

"I still have the family mon (crest), but the sword was lost during WWII... the family that offered to look over the farm while they were gone stole it."

-- FecusTPeekusberg

Bit of a Reach, but Acceptable

"Johann Sebastian Bach. One of his daughters married into my family, which makes him my great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather." -- warboy3

"You're within 7 generations of Bach so you may have roughly <1% chance of having some of his DNA!" -- jamjamsify

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Legendary Clutz

"He was on the Mayflower. And fell off." -- fi55ion

"Thank goodness he made it back on or a lot of us wouldn't be around! My dad and I did our family tree years ago and had fun tracing our ancestors back to him." -- eosean

"He wasn't in a knife fight was he? I had a relative in the Mayflower that was in technically the first knife fight and I think he was the loser." -- Steveisnotcaptain

An Important Trip

"She wasn't famous but my great grandmother was on the ship that rescued the Titanic survivors." -- dahopppa

"Great! My great grandfather was on the titanic himself! He survived so maybe he has met your great grandmother lol" -- tijoyo

"My grandmother was just a child, but she was sailing from Wales at that time and remembers the adults talking about a ship that was sinking." -- JibbityJabbity

Finally Making Amends

"Related to Bridget Bishop, first woman hung in the Salem witch trials." -- dadoliver

"I'm descended from John Hale, who was instrumental in starting the Salem witch trials, and later changed his mind and helped get them stopped."

"A belated 'sorry' from my family to yours." -- rickpo

Intersecting Family Trees

"William Randolph Hearst. Famous for being Citizen Kane." -- broberds

"Patricia, his daughter, robbed my uncle's gun store with the Symbionese Liberation Army." -- SalesAutopsy

"I've been to his house. Nice place." -- Hazi-Tazi

"Legend has it he was instrumental in getting pot demonized and illegalized because hemp was a major competitor to his business interests, paper or petroleum or something." -- timsstuff

Not a Legend, But a Family Treasure Nonetheless

"He's not extremely famous now but my great great grandfather was Joe Fox. Joe Fox was a famous English boxer in the 1920s, he won a Lonsdale belt by the time he was 23 when that achievement was very competitive and (i think) he ended up winning three total."

"I remember my grandma showing it to me in a glass display box before we sent it to a museum."

-- wheatgrass-

A Very Normalizing Comment Thread

"I have two. John Adams, and John Quincy Adams." -- CantSpeakSpanish

"WHAT'S UP RELATIVE. I TOO AM A DESCENDANT." -- counterspell

"WAIT ME TOO, WHATS UP GUYS" -- smith-512

"Same here; that means you're related to a shitload of early American names - from pilgrims on down." -- this_is_trash_really

"Edit: My lineage apparently got around." -- CantSpeakSpanish

Morbid Claims to Fame

"Grandfather was the first person to be sentenced to death after Texas reinstated the death penalty in the 70's." -- OneFeedback3

"Wait they cancelled it then brought it back?!" -- JackofScarlets

"My ancestors Blackjack Ketchum is the only person to have been executed in New Mexico. The executioner botched the hanging and decapitated him, offending the townspeople so much they voted to ban capital punishment." -- greenIdbandit

Powerhouse

"My great great (not sure how many greats) grandfather was the checkers champion of England." -- thisnameisfineiguess

"Now this one is the best one on here." -- ThrowRA407

"I wonder how many generations pass before the good-at-checkers gene is gone. I'm sure the checker champ's son is pretty good at checkers, but is his son?" -- [deleted]

"My dad won my church domino tournament once." -- whogonecheckme

The Most Current of Ancestors

"My uncle is a famous singer from Ireland, he's not big in the US but massive everywhere else, he's part of a band called Westlife, his name is Shane Filan He's still alive but yeah there you go." -- bigboomer420

"I am Irish. Can confirm that Shane Filan is very famous." -- fofieflamingo

"Misread that as porn star and was slightly bewildered and also slightly impressed that you were so comfortably dropping your uncles stage name." -- Vibr8_

Wonder if They Were All Friends

"My great great uncle murdered an FBI agent and subsequently spent time in Alcatraz. He was there at the same time as Machine Gun Kelly and Al Capone."

"For those curious, his name is Guy Osborne and he murdered Truett E. Rowe." -- PeavyNeckVeins

"I have an ancestor who was an FBI agent and was shot in the head by Baby Face Nelson. Survived, too!" -- tadadaism

"That rapper that squared up with Eminem?" -- nicholasgnames

Bloodlines to the Losing Side

"Both Robert E. Lee and William T. Sherman. One led the Confederate forces and the other burned down Atlanta and everything in his path on the way there..." -- Gonty_68_RS

"Robert E. Lee is a descendant of George Washington, so you've got that, too." -- JPMcGowan

"But he spared Savannah! Thank goodness!" -- NotWorriedABunch


Do you have something to confess to George? Text "Secrets" or "🤐" to +1 (310) 299-9390 to talk to him about it.

CW: Suicide

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