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July 14, 2015 14:15 ET

Americans Desire Explorers, Royalty, Mayflower Descendants and Military Heroes in Their Family Trees

Second Chapter of Multi-country Family History Study From Ancestry Also Uncovers Doctors, Actors and Singers as Being Among Most Desirable Ancestors -- Drunkards and Thieves the Least

PROVO, UT--(Marketwired - July 14, 2015) - When researching their family history, Americans prefer to find ancestors who were explorers, royalty, Mayflower descendants, and veterans of the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. However, despite such aspirational wishes, Americans more often descend from World War II veterans, immigrants, and entrepreneurs and businessmen.

The new findings released today by Ancestry, the leading family history company, are part of the second chapter in its Global Family History Report, a multi-country study that examines trends in family history -- past and present -- across six developed countries: the U.S., UK, Canada, Australia, Germany and Sweden.

"While it's fun to imagine being a descendant of royalty, Americans should feel pride in the common historical threads we share in World War II, immigration, and entrepreneurship. Defending freedom, hope for a better future, and hard work are hallmarks of America's past, present, and future," said Michelle Ercanbrack, family historian at Ancestry. "Whether your ancestors were blue blooded or blue collared, there's a story in every family tree--you just have to start looking."

Some celebrities lucky enough to find desirable ancestors in their family tree include:

  • Fashion icon, supermodel, and businesswoman Cindy Crawford, whose 41st-great-grandfather was revealed to be Charlemagne.
  • Actress Elle Fanning, whom research proved was a 22nd great-granddaughter of King Edward III, who ruled England for nearly 50 years from 1330 to 1376, as well as a distant cousin to modern-day royalty Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge.
  • Actress, producer and designer Sarah Jessica Parker, whose 4th great-grandfather, John Hodge, was an explorer who left Ohio in a covered wagon and embarked on the grueling 2,300 mile trek across America as part of the legendary California Gold Rush.
  • Texas Rising star Bill Paxton, whose 4th great-grandfather Benjamin Sharp fought at the Battle of Kings Mountain during the Revolutionary War.
  • The Big Bang Theory actor Jim Parsons, whose 3rd great-grandfather Dr. Jean Baptiste Hacker, was a doctor that published an article on yellow fever in 1854 in the New Orleans Medical and Surgery Journal after facing the scourge in his Iberville Parish practice in Louisiana.

The study also revealed the types of ancestors Americans would be less inclined to want in their family tree. These include thieves, drunkards, a murderer or violent criminal, or a deportee.

"While digging through your family's past, don't be surprised if you uncover something unexpected, or even unsavory. For better or worse, family is family, and ultimately there is always something to learn. The most beautiful stories to me are those where individuals overcome challenging circumstances to do good and be great, even if that redemption takes years or generations," said Ercanbrack.

Table one. The top five most-desired ancestors across territories

Rank  USA  UK  Australia  Canada  Germany  Sweden
1  A member of royalty  An adventurer or explorer  An adventurer or explorer  A member of royalty  An 
adventurer or explorer
adventurer or explorer
2  An adventurer or explorer  A stage performer  A member of royalty  An adventurer or explorer  A doctor or medic  A member of royalty
3  A doctor or medic  A doctor or medic  A revolutionary or freedom fighter  A doctor or medic  A national or international-level sportsman/
 A revolutionary or freedom fighter
4  An aristocrat or noble  A member of royalty  A stage performer  An aristocrat or noble  A revolutionary or freedom fighter  An entrepreneur or successful businessperson
5  A revolutionary or freedom fighter  An aristocrat or noble  A doctor or medic  A stage performer  A stage performer  A stage performer

Table Two. The top five least-desired ancestors across territories

Rank  USA  UK  Australia  Canada  Germany  Sweden
1  A murderer or violent criminal  A slave owner  A drunkard  A thief  A murderer or violent criminal  A deportee
2  A thief  A drunkard  A slave owner  A deportee  A deportee  A thief
3  A general criminal  A deportee  A general criminal  A general criminal  A thief  Any other kind of criminal not mentioned above
4  A drunkard  A general criminal  Anyone who married their own cousin  Anyone who married their own cousin  Anyone who married their own cousin  A drunkard
5  A deportee  Anyone who married their own cousin  A deportee  A drunkard  A drunkard  Anyone who married their own cousin

To review the second chapter of Ancestry's Global Family History Report, contact

Methodology: In March 2014, Ancestry approached the Future Foundation to pursue an original program of research focusing on the growing phenomenon of online family history research in six of the world's largest economies: the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and Sweden. A number of desk research resources have been consulted to compile the findings, these include previous survey research from Ancestry, census data from each of the six countries, nVision Global trend data and forecasts for internet uptake, use of social networking and other online activities, in each of the six countries, and Ancestry's extensive genealogical archives. A total of 6,024 10-15 minute interviews were carried out with adults aged 18+ in the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and Sweden (1,000+ adults aged 18+ per country) as part of its original quantitative research. In each country, interlocking age and gender quotas and broad income-group quotas were set to ensure the sample was representative of the general population by age and gender. Interviews were carried out online, using panel respondents recruited by Research Now, during June 2014. In instances where we believe our sample of online panel respondents to be representative of the general population (i.e., non tech-related matters such as ancestors, extended family, etc.), we interpret results as representative of the adult population in general. In other instances, where appropriate (e.g. when giving the percentage of all adults who have used the Internet for online family history), we have mapped survey results against other sources of data listed above (e.g., on the percentage of adults aged 18+ who are internet users in each country) and adjusted findings accordingly.

About is the world's largest online family history resource with more than 2 million paying subscribers across all its websites. More than 16 billion records have been added, and users have created more than 70 million family trees to the core Ancestry websites, including its flagship site and its affiliated international websites. offers a suite of online family history brands, including,,, as well as the AncestryDNA product, sold by its subsidiary, DNA, LLC, all of which along with its core Ancestry websites, are designed to empower people to discover, preserve and share their family history.

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