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  • William B. Taylor

DNA Testing & Celebrities

A few years ago I decided to take a DNA test in the hope of the test results helping me find out more about my lineage. The initial test that I took was a mitochondrial DNA test which provides results from the combined DNA that you inherit from both your mother and from your father. I remember impatiently (I don't have a lot of patience at times!) waiting for my test results and when they finally arrived, I was overwhelmed by the number of my genetic matches.


Aside from the shear volume of DNA matches (several thousand), I had no way of knowing whether the match was on my maternal or paternal side of the family. It was then that I decided to approach my parents to see if either would be willing to take a DNA test. Surprisingly, both were (actually it was more of a surprise that my father agreed to the test!) and soon I had their DNA samples and sent them in for analysis. When the results came back, it made sorting out genetic matches a lot easier as matches to both my mother and I were on the maternal side, and vice-versa for my father. I then had a Y-chromosome test submitted for both myself and my father to further enhance the information I had already gathered.


Fortunately for me, the combined Mitochondrial and Y DNA tests that my father and I took provided vast amounts of information about our shared ancestors. Soon I was on the trail to being able to trace back my paternal lineage over 12 generations. During that journey, which continues to this day, I started discovering names that sounded familiar.


My paternal family history is interesting in two ways:

1) My paternal grandmother's maternal side of the family is very well documented (they are Scottish) and has a significant number of nobles included, primarily, but not exclusively through the Bruce family (think Robert The Bruce).

2) My paternal grandfather's maternal side of the family has the majority of its roots dating back to the early 1600's in Colonial America. This was a surprise to me and the surprises kept on coming.


My paternal family includes an incredible number of history-making individuals, both English and American. Through this line of the family I have discovered family ties to a myriad of political, religious, military and artistic celebrities. Surnames such as Roosevelt, Cleveland, Morgan, Ford, Bacon, Churchill, Bruce, Efron, Taylor (my own surname), Rockefeller, Bogart, Gish, Tracy, Dowd, Vanderbilt, Colt, Allen, Woolworth and many more populate my family tree. No one could have been more surprised at the number of famous relatives I have than me, although my dad was pretty shocked too!


I was recently able to confirm, beyond a doubt, my genetic relationship, as well as that of my dad to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. This was done through a genetic match to a known Roosevelt descendant through one of FDR's paternal great-grandfathers. Finding this genetic match was a real boost to my ancestor-hunting ego.


Finding the genetic match to a known relative of FDR soon had me wondering; "Do celebrities bother with their family history, and if they do, have any taken DNA tests in hopes of finding more family members?" . I know that many celebrities, like the rest of us mere mortals, are curious about their family history. The success of both the UK and American TV shows "Who Do You Think You Are?" is proof of that. Celebrity or not, a lot of us want to know about our own family history, both good and bad.


In my own experience with contacting DNA matches, I have had mixed responses to my inquiries. Some DNA matches have been thrilled to find another relative and shared their immediate family history with me, and I with them, but others have been, well, "frosty" in their response, if they even bother to respond at all. I would imagine that celebrities, both the actors and other kinds in our society, would be wise to be cautious in their approach to making contact with long-lost, distant relatives.


I am hoping that one day I will be able to make contact with one of my many famous distant cousins. I am not looking to stand in their spotlight or hit them up for a loan (I have my own money, thank you very much), nor ask for anything other than information about our common family. Still, I have to admit that it would be cool (yes, I am old and use the phrase "cool") to sit and talk with Zac and Dillon Efron, both of whom are cousins, or to spend time with cousin Kevin Bacon or my cousins Andrew and Elizabeth Shue; or even discuss business with one of my Rockefeller cousins over a drink in Manhattan; or to hear stories about my cousin President Gerald Ford from one of his children, or learn more about President Ronald Regan from his children, who are my cousins through their mother, Nancy Davis. Who wouldn't want that?


Until then I will keep searching and adding more relatives to my ever-growing family tree. Maybe one day, one of my famous cousins will contact me for information about our shared ancestry...




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