Famous Family Trees Celebrity Heritage

People’s interest in celebrities often involves curiosity about their background, upbringing and origins, including famous people’s family trees. In examining famous family trees, one can sometimes find ancestors with particular traits or talents that seem to have passed down to related celebrities. Mostly, however, researching famous people’s family trees is just fun.

The 2008 U.S. Presidential campaign saw a surge of interest in famous peoples’ family trees. Americans became very interested in John McCain and Barack Obama’s family trees. Interestingly, the two candidates’ family trees aptly reflected their personalities and priorities.

The McCain Family Tree

John McCain’s family tree reflects his military career. Both his father and grandfather were admirals in the U.S. Navy.

This familial association with the military continues down the family tree. William Alexander McCain (1812 to 1863) fought for the Confederates during the Civil War. Five of McCain’s ancestors also fought in the Revolutionary War.

Ethnically, McCain’s ancestors are predominately Scots and Irish. The impression one gets is of a family with a strong history of military service and patriotism.

Barack Obama’s Family Tree

The Obama family tree is dynamic and multifaceted. Through his Kenyan father, Obama has genetic links to Kenyan warrior chiefs.

On his mother’s side, the Obama family tree is distantly linked to at least three U.S. Presidents (some sources suggest links to as many as eight former presidents). Obama is distantly related to Harry S. Truman, George W. Bush and George Herbert Walker Bush.

Like McCain, the Obama family tree includes ancestors who fought in the Revolutionary War. In Obama’s case, the ancestor in question was John Miles Duvall.

The maternal side of the Obama family tree includes ancestors who were slave owners. Because Obama’s African heritage comes from his Kenyan father, he is amongst the relatively few African-Americans without African-American slaves in their family tree.

As with any family tree, the Obama family tree contains some “bad apples.” In addition to slave owners, one of Obama’s New England ancestors accused someone of witchcraft and stole from the governor.

Tying Together Famous Family Trees

It’s easy to fall into partisan politics in an election year, but the famous family trees examined during the 2008 campaign emphasized how interrelated we all are.

The 2008 Republican and Democratic presidential candidates might seem to have nothing in common, but according to a scholar at the New England Historic Genealogical Society, both McCain and Obama’s family trees trace back to a common ancestor.

Gary Boyd Roberts’ research indicates both men are descendants of Isabel, the illegitimate daughter of William, King of Scots. In addition, both family trees have ties to Edward I of England.

Obama has ties to other famous family trees. Brad Pitt and Barack Obama are ninth cousins (coincidentally, Pitt’s companion, Angelina Jolie, is the ninth cousin twice-removed of Obama’s rival for the Democratic nomination, Hillary Clinton).

The diversity of the Obama family tree isn’t unusual. Most people have fascinating family histories, and a little genealogical research often reveals links to famous people’s family trees.


Bachelor, R. (2008). John McCain’s ancestry: Scotch-Irish dominance. Retrieved October 13, 2008, from the Suite101 Web site: http://genealogy.suite101.com/article.cfm/john_mccains_ancestry_scotchirish_dominance

Fornek, S. (2007). Son of presidents and tribal chiefs. Retrieved October 13, 2008, from the Chicago Sun-Times Web site: http://www.suntimes.com/news/elections/548552,CST-NWS-otreemain09.article

Los Angeles Times. (2007). Barack Obama’s family tree grows and grows. Retrieved October 13, 2008, from the Los Angeles Times Web site: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/washington/2007/12/obamas-family-t.html

The Daily Dish. (n.d.). Pitt and Jolie related to Obama and Clinton? Retrieved October 15, 2008, from the SFGate Web site: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/sfgate/detail?blogid=7&entry_id=25210