If you suspect a "famous" individual or two in your family tree, begin by not jumping to conclusions. Research the line that supposedly connects to that individual just as you would any other. Whether you're directly descended or a tenth cousin, twice removed, you'll likely have to research your own family back several generations before attemping to connect to the famous person. Distant cousin relationships often require following the family tree to a point several generations prior to the time of the famous individual, and then tracing your way back down various side branches.
Famous AncestorsIn addition to working on your own family history, you should also explore the information that exists for the famous individual you think you are related to. If they are pretty famous, chances are that their family history has already been researched by someone. If not, it's likely that their biography or other resources are available to get you started in the right direction.
- Biographies of thousands of famous individuals can be easily found online. Biography.com includes short biographies of over 25,000 famous people, ranging from actors and actresses to political leaders and historical figures. Infoplease.com features 30,000 notable people. Biographical information for actors, actresses and other individuals associated with the movie can be found at E! Online and The Internet Movie Database. Biographies of notable women are a prominent feature at About Women's History.
- Popular cemetery Web sites showcase dates and pictures of celebrity tombstones. Find a Grave includes transcribed gravestone information (and sometimes pictures) for thousands of famous and infamous individuals, while Hollywood Underground gives the scoop on the final resting places of famous people buried in and around Los Angeles. A similar site, Political Graveyard, tells you where all the dead politicians are buried. If your famous ancestor was in the military, then many military cemeteries and memorials have information online.
- If the person is pretty famous, their family tree may have already been researched. Famous lineages can often be found online (see famous family trees), or in published biographies or family histories. Heritage and lineage society publications and membership applications are another rich source of lineages for famous individuals.
- Newspaper accounts of a famous individual, especially those written during his (or her) lifetime, may detail his participation in historical events or include accounts of his daily life. Marriages, obituaries, and other newsworthy items found in historical newspapers may also provide information on family members.
While it provides a good start, it is important to remember that this type of published information is considered a secondary source. You will also need to do your own research in primary documents to verify the accuracy of what you have found.