Tom Hanks, Danny Dyer and Ellen DeGeneres – see the celebrities with surprising ancestors

These famous faces are not the first well-known people in their family trees.

We love delving into the past of our favourite stars and discovering their unexpected ancestors, so we can’t wait for W’s new genealogy show The Secrets In My Family Tree.

The list of famous faces with surprising connections is longer than you might think – go far enough back through history and it seems an awful lot of our modern-day celebrities are descended from the great and good.

[Read more: W on BT TV - How to watch]

As the channel launches its new series hosted by Alex Jones, we brush up on the well-known people with even better-known relations.

Kit Harington

Game of Thrones star Kit Harington’s starring role in BBC drama Gunpowder has more significance than you might think, as it turns out that he is actually related to his character.

Kit plays Robert Catesby, the brains behind the scheme to blow up Parliament on November 5, 1605. In interviews ahead of the series he revealed that the plotter was a relative on his mother’s side and that he even has the middle name Catesby.

[Read more: Kit Harington - 8 surprising facts]

And that’s not all – one of his father’s ancestors was in Parliament on the day Catesby’s head was carried past on a spike as a deterrent to other traitors, and again on his mother’s side his eight times great-grandfather was Charles II.

Tom Hanks

As a multi-faceted megastar, Tom Hanks recently showed he was more than just an actor by publishing a collection of short stories.

But aside from his own achievements, the Captain Phillips star boasts some impressive ancestry on his mother’s side.

Tom is the third cousin four-times removed of Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the US who paved the way for the abolition of slavery.

Danny Dyer

The shock on Danny Dyer’s face when he was told who was included in his family tree is the best thing we’ve ever seen on an episode of Who Do You Think You Are?.

First came the revelation that one of his ancestors was Henry VIII’s right-hand man Thomas Cromwell, but the shocks did not stop there for the EastEnders star.

He also discovered that his 14 times great-grandmother was Jane Seymour’s sister Elizabeth, and the crowning glory, that he was a direct descendant of Edward III and William the Conqueror.

Benedict Cumberbatch

Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch seems to have developed a habit of playing his ancestors, with three roles to date under his belt that he can trace his roots to.

In The Hollow Crown, Benedict played Richard III, who turned out to be his third cousin 16 times removed. He was nominated for an Oscar for playing his ancestor Alan Turing in The Imitation Game, a 2014 film about the mathematician’s crucial secret role in World War II.

[Read more: Benedict Cumberbatch talks Ian McEwan and Marvel]

Even his most famous role in TV series Sherlock has a family connection - it was recently discovered that author of the original stories Arthur Conan Doyle was his 16th cousin twice removed.

Benedict also has famous living relatives, and can boast Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield as his sixth cousin.

Robert Pattinson

There seems to be something that makes actors want to seek out roles related to their past, as Twilight star Robert Pattinson has an interesting connection.

He can be traced back to Vlad the Impaler, which is a fitting history given that he featured in one of the most famous vampire film franchises of all time.

George Clooney

Interestingly, another of Hollywood royalty can also claim a link to Abraham Lincoln.

Ocean’s 11 actor George is the first half-cousin five times removed of the former president, which of course also makes him a distant relative of Tom Hanks.

Ellen DeGeneres

She’s famous as a US chat show host and comedian, but Ellen DeGeneres has some very British family connections.

The presenter who has hosted the Oscars is a 19th cousin of Edward III, but also has a more recent Royal link as the 14th cousin twice removed of the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton. We wonder whether Kate knew about that one?

Maggie and Jake Gyllenhaal

Brother and sister Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal can also join the list of Hollywood stars with notable UK ancestry.

[Read more: W - 5 reasons to check out the channel]

The actors are descendants of Edward III, which also relates them to Ellen DeGeneres, Danny Dyer, Audrey Hepburn, Michael Douglas, and Humphrey Bogart.

The Secrets In My Family begins on Monday, November 6 at 9pm on W. Watch it on BT TV channel 311.

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