June 26, 2013 06:00 ET

Unmasking The Lone Ranger's Leading Men: Finding the Real Life Heroes in Hammer and Depp's Family Trees Reveals Armie Hammer Is Descended From Cherokee Chief Kanagatucko and Johnny Depp's 8th Great-Grandmother Is Elizabeth Key, the First African American Slave to Sue for Freedom

PROVO, UT--(Marketwired - Jun 26, 2013) -   Before there was the Lone Ranger and Tonto, there was... Elizabeth Key and Chief Kanagatucko? New research from, the world's largest online family history resource, reveals both Armie Hammer and Johnny Depp -- the leading actors of Walt Disney Pictures' "The Lone Ranger" -- are direct descendants of two real American freedom fighters.

Origin stories are the new movie magic for Hollywood, with the genesis of leading characters from comic books, fairy tales and fan fiction serving as the foundation for the latest blockbusters. Disney's "The Lone Ranger" is no exception, as the movie follows the transformation of betrayed lawman John Reid, played by Hammer, into a masked outlaw who fights for justice with the help of his guide, Tonto, a Native American spirit warrior played by Depp. 

To celebrate the release of the film, investigated the two stars' family trees and found that the fight for justice is not just a trait in their characters, but one than runs in their blood. According to's expert family historians, Hammer is of Native American ancestry and the descendant of one of the earliest documented Cherokee leaders and known peace advocate, Chief Kanagatucko. Moreover, Johnny Depp's eighth great-grandmother was Elizabeth Key, the first African American woman in the American colonies to sue for her freedom from slavery and win.

"Many actors choose projects based on their personal connection to the character or the story," said Michelle Ercanbrack, family historian for "It's unique to discover that not one, but both of the stars of 'The Lone Ranger' have proven ties to historical figures who shaped American freedom struggles over the years. I imagine their eighth great-grandparents would approve."

Who Was Cherokee Chief Kanagatucko?
While often known for his family connection to the famous "Arm and Hammer" brand, Armie Hammer can trace his Native American ancestry to his eighth great-grandfather, Cherokee Chief Kanagatucko. Known as "Old Hop" or "Stalking Turkey" because of his old age and limp, Chief Kanagatucko was a known advocate of peace and friendship during the French and Indian War and the Seven Years' War. He also carried the title of the First Beloved Man, which was the spiritual leader or high priest for his tribe. Given Hammer's ancestry, it seems only fitting that Tonto's moniker for the Lone Ranger is the Native American phrase 'kemo sabe,' which means faithful friend or trusted scout.

Who Was Elizabeth Key?
Unlike Johnny Depp's vigilante character Tonto, his ancestor Elizabeth Key worked within the law to win her freedom. Born to a British Aristocrat father and an African American mother, Key successfully sued for her freedom and that of her infant son in the mid-1600s. Invoking British colonial law, which stated that civil status as being determined by the father, she won her freedom on July 21, 1656 in the colony of Virginia, where some of Depp's family members have lived since the early 1600s.

Unmask the Stories in Your Family Tree
Celebrities aren't the only ones with prominent ancestors in their family trees. Find out who may be hiding in yours by doing a little research of your own family tree. Start with what you know and ask your family for more details. Then use billions of online records to discover new connections to your past at

About LLC is the world's largest online family history resource with approximately 2.7 million paying subscribers across all its websites. More than 11 billion records have been added to the sites and users have created more than 47 million family trees containing more than 5 billion profiles. In addition to its flagship site, the company operates several Ancestry international websites along with a suite of online family history brands including, and, all designed to empower people to discover, preserve and share their family history.

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