How To Find Out If You Have Famous Ancestors

How To Find Out If You Have Famous Ancestors

To discover if you have famous ancestors, the first thing you have to do is to create a family tree.  Once you have begun your research journey, and have gone back a few generations, you can branch out and research more lines. 

It is best to conduct research into more than one surname because the more ancestors you have researched, the more chance you have of discovering you have famous ancestors.  You can check your tree against large databases and biographies to see if your ancestors are mentioned in the family tree of someone famous.

Make Use of Google Search

One of the best ways of finding out if your ancestor was famous, or was mentioned in someone else's tree, is to search for his name in a search engine such as Google.  It is amazing the information you may uncover by simply doing a Google Search. 

To research your ancestor using Google, you should add their name in quotation marks, also adding a date or year and place of birth, or a place they might have lived, e.g. "Isaac Dunkley" 1835 Roade.  This will bring up any websites that may include this person.  

One word of caution, however, is that sometimes there may be more than one person of the same name and date of birth in the same village, town, or area, so you may have to conduct more research before adding the information to your tree.

FamilySearch Relative Finder

You can upload your family tree to FamilySearch genealogies after you have registered.  It is free to register by clicking create account in the top right-hand corner of FamilySearch.  Once you have registered, you can upload a GEDCOM file on your computer to the site.  

To change a Family Tree Maker file to a GEDCOM file, you can open the file on Family Tree Maker, and then click file followed by export.  You can then change the output format from FTM (Family Tree Maker) to GEDCOM 5.5 (Standard).  This makes the file compatible with many different programs. 

When you export the file, you can also decide where on your computer you would like to save the new file.

To upload your GEDCOM file, you should first log in, and then click Search and then Genealogies in the drop down menu.  You can then scroll down to 'upload your family tree to FamilySearch Genealogies' and then click 'submit your tree'.  Once on the next page, you should then click upload GEDCOM file'.  

You can choose the file you wish to upload and can also give the tree a name and include a short description of the tree and where your research was undertaken.  It takes approximately 15 minutes to become searchable.  Any living people are not added to the tree.

Once the tree is uploaded, you can click 'compare' on the 'my uploaded trees' section and this will help you to discover if the relatives on your tree have been researched by other people. 

Please bear in mind that comparing your tree with others in their system does take a long time, depending on the size of your tree, but obviously the more people you have researched on your own tree, the more chance you have of finding a match.

Once the comparison is concluded, you are then able to go through the potential matches.  If there is an individual that can be added to your tree, it will have a + sign next to their name, and you can then click on their name to obtain further information, and you can then decide whether you want to add them to your tree. 

You can accomplish this by clicking add in the top right-hand corner.  Any individuals found in other people's trees, but already in yours, will be identified with a green tick next to their name. 

Clicking on the individual's name will bring up the details about both the individual in your tree and the details contained in the record on the other tree.  If they have information you wish to include, you can click replace and replace your information.

You never know, you may find that you are related to someone famous, but it is, as ever, very important to double-check any information before adding it to your tree. 

Even if you do not find any famous people utilising this system, you could still find relatives you never knew existed, and may be able to share information with the other person and create lasting friendships.

Public Member Trees

Another option you may have when you are searching for your own family history is to look at Ancestry's public member trees. 

These trees have been added to Ancestry by members of the public who may be researching the same line as you, giving you the option of sharing research.

Be warned, however, that the information contained in a public member tree is not always accurate.  You should always proceed with caution and always double-check information you uncover.

If you find that many people are researching the same line, this may indicate that the person was important or someone further back in the line was.

Pilgrim Database and the New England Historic Genealogical Society

If you have already built a substantial family tree, and have gone back far enough, it is worth checking to see if your ancestors, especially if you live in North America, were some of the first people to settle in North America from the British Isles.

The Pilgrim Database is the result of a partnership between the General Society of Mayflower Descendants and New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS).  Please note that you do have to be a full member of to access the database.

Membership costs $94.95 per year for individual membership or £119.95 per year for a family membership.  Purchasing a subscription enables you to search through 1.4 billion names on the site, obtain access to their quarterly magazine, American Ancestors, and The Register, the flagship journal of American genealogy.

You can also benefit from free admission to the NEGHS library and special collections.  The NEHGS library holds many manuscripts, records, books, microfilms, photographs, artifacts, electronic resources and other items.  It also has materials including letters, diaries, newspapers, business records, genealogies, city directories, and organisational records.  

The three repositories for which materials have been digitised include the Wyner Family Jewish Heritage Center, the R. Stanton Avery Special Collections, and the Research Library.

Purchasing a subscription to also offers the facility of obtaining up to 30% off the best available rates at hotels participating in their program if you book through and/or

Watch Genealogy Programs

You may discover that you share ancestry with a famous person whilst watching a program such as Who Do You Think You Are. 

I was watching Olympic rowing champion Matthew Pinsent's program when it suddenly dawned on me that I recognised some of the names on his family tree. 

Quickly turning on my computer and loading up my family tree on Family Tree Maker, I realised that we have shared ancestry.  Matthew is my 7th cousin.  Very distant, I know, but related is related!!

Old Newspapers

Another way of finding out if you have famous ancestors is to search in old newspapers, either online or in a record office or library.  Many newspapers are online at the British Newspaper Archive or Find My Past.  A subscription is payable at these sites.

Although I have not personally found any 'famous' ancestors or relatives, I was able to extend my research back another generation because my ancestor Ann Jannett's (McJannett's) illegitimate child Jane was mentioned in the Leicestershire Mercury dated 30 August 1845. 

The article stated that Ann had indicated that Jane's father was John Shingler of Broughton Astley.  This was information that had not been included on Jane's birth certificate.  So exciting!!

Jane Jannett (McJannett) Birth CertificateJane Jannett (McJannett) Birth Certificate

Suspect You Know Who You Are Related To?

If you already suspect you have famous ancestors, you can begin to research their family tree to see if any names in their family tree are familiar to you.  The more famous your potential ancestor/relative is, the more chance you have of discovering their family tree.

If your ancestor was nobility, or a member of the aristocracy, it is highly likely that their family tree has been included in a book such as Burke's Peerage, which is available online after payment of a yearly subscription.

You can also obtain access to biographies of famous people via, which has biographies of several famous people, including political leaders, historical figures and actors and actresses.

Other sites providing access to biographies and family trees include and  Actors and actresses, historical figures, poets and playwrights, Presidents, Mayflower passengers, Royalty, First Ladies, artists and singers are included.  You are able to view their ancestors and descendants.  Research is still being undertaken for some family trees.

Whether or not you find you have famous ancestors, I hope you enjoy your research journey as much as I have enjoyed mine.  

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