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We've all known a guy like this, you know the guy who claims his great to the Nth grandfather did something famous which via Fridge Logic carries over to him? This is dedicated to any character who invokes a Famous Ancestor to help characterize himself, or is characterized by his famous ancestor despite his own traits. Expect this as the source of a Secret Legacy or Superpowerful Genetics in a family line and expect a poor kid being held up to the ancestors standard.

Commons subversions occur where the character has a Famous Ancestor, but the powers or prowess eludes them and their humiliation is Played for Laughs.

This is a common way for writers to grant characters powers or abilities of the famous ancestor. Bonus points if the character claims to be a direct descendant in a case that history clearly contradicts and causes Fridge Logic.

Note that while it might seem impressive to claim certain historical figures as your ancestor, anyone who lived more than a few hundred years ago and had more than a few children could very well have millions of living descendants right now. See the entries from Real Life below. On the gripping hand though, while simple descendants of important historical figures may be common, "direct male line descendants" -- presumably, from firstborn son to firstborn son -- probably actually would be unique.

Examples of Famous Ancestor include:

Anime and Manga

Comic Books

Film

  • In Sky High, the main character has two very famous superheroes as his parents. It appears to be a subversion of this trope, until he gains loads of powers. The busdriver is a true subversion.
  • In the extremely forgettable 1989 DTV skiffy movie Arena, Steve Armstrong plays a short-order cook attempting to win the intergalactic boxing championship; it's mentioned briefly that he's a direct descendant of Neil Armstrong.

Literature

  • All the magicians in the Charlie Bone series are descendants of the Red King, from whom they get their powers.
  • Charles Stross' Merchant Prince series has an example similar to the Charlie Bone series: Worldwalking is enabled a recessive gene which, 300 years ago, was possessed by exactly one man. All the worldwalkers now are therefore not only descended from him, but descended from him through both parents.
  • Vimes from Discworld is a descendant of 'Stoneface' Vimes, who beheaded the last king of Ankh-Morpork, Lorenzo the Kind (He, emphasis, wasn't.) Vimes seems quite proud of this.

 Rhys: You had an ancestor, I believe, who was a regicide?

Vimes: I've always thought that was a bit unfair. I mean, he only killed one king. It's not as if it was a hobby.

  • Voldemort is a descendant of Salazar Slytherin, from whom he gets his ability to speak to snakes. He transferred this power to Harry by accident. If the ring is any indication, he's also the descendant of Cadmus Peverell.
    • Similarly, Sybil Trelawney decided that having a seer for a grandmother entitled her to a spot teaching Divination. She did actually have the gift of foresight, but it didn't work that often.
    • Harry himself is apparently the direct male-line descendant of Ignotus Peverell.
    • In Order of the Phoenix, Sirius tells Harry that most pureblood families are related to each other in some way or another. It's simply a product of having a limited choice in who one's children can marry to keep the bloodline "clean". It's noted that even the Blacks and the Weasleys (who are purebloods themselves) share common ancestors.
  • The Da Vinci Code: The holy grail is the descendants of Jesus.
  • It turns out in The Dresden Files that all the Knights of the Cross we've met so far are descended from royalty - Shiro from the last king of Okinawa, Sanya from Saladin and Michael from Charlemagne.
  • Played for humor in The Hitchhikers Guide to The Galaxy as Mr L. Prosser (the man who wants to build a bypass through Arthur's home) is revealed as a direct male line descendant of Genghis Khan but the blood only shows up as predilection for little fur hats, a preference for axes over the door, and the occasional visions of screaming Mongol.
  • In the short story The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter, Sherlock Holmes claims that his grandmother was sister of the French artist Horace Vernet.
  • The Bond family's coat of Arms The World Is Not Enough from the James Bond Novel On Her Majesty's Secret Service is the same as Real Life's Sir Thomas Bond's. The relation is implied but never outright stated.
  • Sun Jian from Romance of the Three Kingdoms, along with his children, all claim descent from Sun Tzu.
  • Red Dwarf book Last Human has an inversion: Rimmer's one-night stand with Yvonne McGruder led to Michael McGruder's birth. To spare her embarrassment, she tells Michael that Rimmer was a magnificent hero of a man (an idea reinforced by the fact that he was the only crewman resurrected as a hologram). Michael tries to emulate his father's made-up achievements and becomes one of the best officers of the Space Corps, freezing himself in time so he can meet up with his heroic father. Needless to say that when they meet, he isn't pleased.
  • In the first book of the Prydain Chronicles, Eilonwy (who turns out to be Princess Eilonwy) happens to mention that hers are the people of Llyr Half-Speech, the Sea King. In later books she self-identifies as "Eilonwy daughter of Angharad daughter of Regat of the house of Llyr." This is a bit of a subversion of the trope, however, because in Prydain it's perfectly normal to introduce yourself as 'son of' or 'daughter of.'
    • Fflewder Fflam, a wandering bard (and a king, albeit of a very small, self-sufficient kingdom) is distantly related to the Sons of Don. This, unfortunately, means that he has no choice but to leave Prydain with the rest of his kin at the end of the series.
  • The protagonist of J.C. Hutchins' novel Personal Effects: Dark Art, Zach Taylor, is a many times great-grandson of U.S. President Zachary Taylor.

Live Action TV

  • Octavian happily uses this on Rome. Even though the father he speaks so highly of was actually his great-uncle, and Octavian found out he was adopted when he read Caesar's will.
    • Brutus also has a Famous Ancestor, being descendant from the man who rid Rome of its last king. His mother and the men who conspire to kill Caesar often bring it up.
  • Spock of Star Trek the Original Series fame claims descent from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle through his human mother, Amanda Grayson.
    • And Miles O'Brien claims descent from the legendary Irish king Brian Boru. This is at least justified, as Boru is traditionally believed to have founded the O'Brien clan.
  • On The West Wing, Pres. Josiah Bartlett is supposed to be descended from the delegate to the Constitutional Convention of the same name.
  • In an episode of Lizzie McGuire, Matt pretends for a school report that their family in descended from, among others, Elvis Presley and Davy Crockett. Leads to An Aesop about lying.
  • Rose, on The Golden Girls, believed for years that Bob Hope was her biological father.
  • Played twice in Bones; Agent Seely Booth is distantly related to John Wilkes Booth, and isn't too proud about it, while Angela Montenegro's father is Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top. Her full name is Angela Pearly Gates Montenegro, "Pearly Gates" being what Gibbons named his guitar.
    • Booth's ancestry is brought up in the episode where they were trying to prove that Lee Harvey Oswald really did act alone. Booth, being an Army Ranger sniper, manages to perfectly copy Oswald's shots with a replica of the assassin's rifle.
    • While Angela's father is played by the real Billy Gibbons and is known to be a famous Texas rocker, his name has never been mentioned so it's never been established on the show that Gibbons is playing "Billy Gibbons" and not "a fictional famous guitarist from Texas who resembles Billy Gibbons."
  • Every member of the teams of Samurai Sentai Shinkenger and Ninja Sentai Kakuranger (bar sixth rangers) have a famous ancestor - more specifically, they were the original group.
  • On CSI,Doc Robbins' wife did his family tree in 'Genetic Disorder' and there's a snippet at the end where he finds he's distantly related to Buffalo Bill Cody.

Radio

  • Classic radio-serial(and later comic book, movie and TV) hero The Green Hornet(real name Britt Reid) was the grand-nephew of John Reid, better known as The Lone Ranger. The origins of the Reid family fortune could be traced back to the Lone Ranger's original silver mine.

Tabletop Games

  • The Legend of the Five Rings game relies heavily on this. Each character can roll on heritage tables at character creation, which essentially gives the PC randomly selected bonuses or penalties based on who his ancestors were. Some of the magic calls upon ancestors, including one high-level spell that summons an ancestor to scold your enemies into submission. Finally, one of the Disadvantages is "Haunted", which means that one of the PC's ancestors dislikes him and occasionally shows up in ghostly form to heckle him during the roleplaying session.

Video Games

  • Fred Bonaparte, direct descendant of Napoleon in Psychonauts, is a notable inversion as he has all the direct opposite qualities of his ancestor i.e. tall, uncompetitive and strategically ineffectual. He has the same hat though.
  • Susano of Okami is a highly ineffectual and ineffective wandering swordsman whose claim to fame is being a descendant of Nagi, the legendary warrior who defeated and sealed away Orochi 100 years ago. We eventually learn Nagi was actually as much of a wuss as Susano is, but, like Susano, got really lucky and had lots of help from Amaterasu.
    • This actually turns out to be a major plot point in the first part of the game: Susano, being absolutely sick of everybody constantly reminding him of his ancestry, decides to pull out the sword imprisoning Orochi in order to prove the legend of Nagi wasn't true.
  • Remilia Scarlet of the Touhou series claims to be a descendant of Vlad Ţepeş. She's lying.
    • Sanae Kotiya is a descendant of the original Goddess of Moriya Shrine, Suwako.
  • Tear (and hence Van, too) are descendants of Yulia Yue who originally read the Score, which is why they know Yulia's Hymns and can sing and understand them.
  • In Fallout 2 the PC is The Chosen One, just because he/she is the grandchild of the original vault dweller, the hero of the first game.
  • The legend of Zelda:
    • Every incarnation of Zelda is related to each other through a bloodline that extends back to the chronological first Zelda from Skyward Sword.
    • According to the Hyrule historia the Link from Twilight Princess is a direct descendant of the Link from Ocarina of Time.
  • The sole claim to fame of the protagonist of the original Dragon Quest is that he's the descendant of the legendary hero Loto/Roto/Erdrick/Bob. The protagonists of the sequel are royalty- because they are the descendants of the descendant of aforementioned legendary hero. In the third game, you play as said legendary hero, whose claim to fame in his home-world was being the son of another legendary hero.
  • Fire Emblem:
    • In the Jugdral games, the people with Holy Blood (minor or major) descend from the Twelve Crusaders who destroyed the Lopto Empire.
    • In Fire Emblem Awakening, the Ylissean Royal Family descends from none other than Marth, the protagonist of the first and third games.

Web Comics

  • In Homestuck, all of the trolls have these. There's Marquise Spinneret Mindfang, Orphaner Dualscar, the Grand Highblood, Neophyte Redglare, the Sufferer, Expatriate Darkleer, the Summoner, Her Imperious Condescension, The Ψiioniic, The Disciple, The Dolorosa and The Handmaid. These ancestors go to Vriska, Eridan, Gamzee, Terezi, Karkat, Equius, Tavros, Feferi, Sollux, Nepeta, Kanaya and Aradia respectively.

Western Animation

  • Played for laughs in Family Guy, where Peter claims to be descended from Adolf Hitler's brother, Peter Hitler.
  • One episode of King of the Hill reveals that Hank is cousin to Dusty Hill of ZZ Top fame. He's not very thrilled about it, mostly due to all the pranks Dusty and his band mates have played on him.

Web Original

  • Subverted in "Ayla and the Late Trevor James Goodkind", the intro novel for Phase in the Whateley Universe. Trevor, a scion of one of the richest, most powerful families on the planet, scoffs at the filthy rich Walcutts:

  Trevor: Oh sure, the Walcutts have made similar claims, but in my opinion they're a bunch of poseurs. "We're descended from one of the signers of the Constitution!" Oh, big deal, I mean, who isn't?

  • Lenneth Archimedes from Fate Nuovo Guerra combines this with Beethoven Was an Alien Spy. As her last name implies, she is descended from Archimedes, who turns out to have been a magus, and was able to pass his magical research to a son (who continued the bloodline) before the Romans caught and killed him. Given how magi from the Nasuverse operate, direct descent is the norm, and so her claims are more valid than most.

Real Life

  • There is a scientist fellow who claims that 0.5% of the world's males have a genetic lineage traceable to Genghis Khan, or his close male relatives.
    • Timur/Tamerlane claimed descent from Genghis Khan, but this was probably false.
  • Several US presidents, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and both Roosevelts, plus other famous Americans such as Robert E. Lee and Humphrey Bogart, claimed descent from European royalty. George W. Bush is known to be a descendant of Edward I, who ruled England from 1272 to 1307.
  • The Bible claims Jesus is a descendent of King David as this was one of the requirements to be the Jewish Messiah, making this trope Older Than Feudalism.
  • Tom Hanks is a relative of Abe Lincoln by way of Abe's mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln. Referenced in one of the Toy Story movies when the first thing Jessie the cowgirl says upon meeting the Hanks-voiced Woody is "Sweet Mother of Abraham Lincoln!"
  • And John Scalzi is distantly related to John Wilkes Booth. He's joked about getting a twitchy feeling around five-dollar bills.
  • The Queen of England and the rest of the current British royal family is descended from the Prophet Mohammed (via Arab kings of Spain).
  • Julius Caesar claimed descent from Aeneas. Or more accurately, Vergil claimed Caesar was descended from Aeneas. Aeneas is also the son of Venus.
  • Marjane Satrapi, author of Persepolis, is a descendant of Nasser al-Din Shah, Shah of Person from 1848 to 1896. She herself puts it down, noting that kings of that time period had hundreds of wives and thousands of children, so there were plenty of others with similar claims
  • Barack Obama is said to be a descendant of Jefferson Davis.
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