Strange Celeb Ancestors That Explain A Lot

Nature versus nurture is a debate that, frankly, most of us really don't care about. But every once in a while, you just have to wonder whether that craving for corn dogs is learned behavior or due to the genetic legacy bequeathed to you by one of your ancestors. And the same question holds true for celebrities. The talented, the beautiful, the powerful—did they become famous simply because they won the genetic lottery? Here's a look at some of the stranger celebrity ancestors that explain a lot about their famous descendants.

Tom Hanks' presidential pedigree

Hollywood icon Tom Hanks is known for his upstanding, everyman demeanor. So where does he get his all-American cadence from? Well, it might be because he comes from the same line as the most American American of all time, Abraham Lincoln. Yes, Lincoln's mother was one Nancy Hanks, making Honest Abe and the star of Joe Versus the Volcano distant cousins. You know what they say: blood will out.

Robert Pattinson's sparkly bits

Robert Pattinson is best known for being the sparkliest, most emo vampire in cinematic history. But it turns out his vampiric roots stretch back much further than that, as Pattinson can trace his line back to the original vampire himself, Vlad the Impaler. Okay, so Vlad wasn't really a vampire, but he was the inspiration for Bram Stoker's Dracula, a book which is certainly more memorable than Twilight. Pattinson's English ancestors intermarried with Vlad's progeny at some point, making Pattinson a rare double-vampire. No wonder he's so pale.

Emma Watson's witchy woman

Emma Watson's Harry Potter character Hermione Granger was often ridiculed by the forces of He Who Must Not Be Named for being a mudblood—someone born of muggles, with no magic in their bloodline. But it turns out that's not entirely true. According to an expose, Watson is actually the descendant of an actual witch, at least, according to the English courts, which convicted Watson ancestor Joan Playle of witchcraft, excommunicating her from the Church of England in the process. Who's the mudblood now, Draco?!

President Barack Obama's royal heritage

President Barack Obama's rise from the humble son of a struggling single mother to the leader of the free world is the quintessential American story. But it's not quite as surprising that he became president when you realize that he descended from some people who knew a thing or two about running a country. President Obama is a descendant of England's King Edward I. He's not alone in this, though; nine other American presidents are also descended from Edward I—including President George W. Bush.

Katharine Hepburn's ancient muse

All-time great Hollywood actress Katharine Hepburn is known for playing iconic film roles such as Eleanor of Aquitaine in the classic film The Lion in Winter. Surprisingly, she had a leg up on her competition: Eleanor of Aquitaine was one of her ancestors! That wasn't her only royal connection to a part she played, either. Her ancestor James Hepburn was married to Mary, Queen of Scots, who Katharine Hepburn played in Mary of Scotland. Talk about authenticity!

J.K. Rowling's heroic legacy

In 2009, French President Nicolas Sarkozy awarded Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling his nation's highest honor, the Legion d'honneur, for her literary service to the world. It wasn't the first time her family had been singled out for upholding the ideals of France, however. Rowling's great-grandfather, Louis Valant, earned the croix de guerre award, for displaying uncommon bravery at the Battle of Verdun during World War I. Now we know just how Rowling was able to craft those amazing tales of heroism: she was drawing on her own family's legacy.

America Ferrera's revolutionary roots

Actress America Ferrera has been breaking down barriers and standing up for the unappreciated during her whole career. And she comes by it naturally. Her great-grandfather, General Gregorio Ferrera, was a revered rebel leader in Honduras who repeatedly led movements to protect the rights of the people against the country's corrupt government regimes. Like the General's great-granddaughter, he also gained his powers via a pair of magic pants. Okay, that part isn't true, but the rest of it totally is.

Adam Vinatieri's Last Stand

Legendary NFL kicker Adam Vinatieri is renowned for keeping his cool under fire, helping his teams win four Super Bowls thanks to his clutch performances. Where did he get that ice water in his veins from? Probably from his great-great-grandfather, Felix Vinatieri, who served in the military under the command of General George Armstrong Custer. Yes—that General Custer. Felix was even slated to accompany Custer on the mission that would go down in history as Custer's Last Stand, but Custer ordered Felix, who was the unit's band leader, to remain behind with his bandmates and await their victorious return. And we thought Super Bowl XXXVI was a close call!

Meryl Streep is everything

Finally, there's Meryl Streep, who is widely acclaimed as one of the greatest actresses of all time. She has so many talents, it's impossible to trace them back to just one strange ancestor. But that's fine, because Streep descended from a slew of noteworthy ancestors. Besides being a descendant of William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania, she is also the descendant of one of the members of Pennsylvania's constitutional congress in 1776. Her family arrived in America the old-fashioned way. During the English Civil War, her ancestors were thrown out of the country, only to help start another war—King Phillip's War against the Native American tribes of Massachusetts—once they arrived in the New World. Is it any wonder Streep is able to bring such complexity and command to her roles?