Before there was the Lone Ranger and Tonto, there was… Elizabeth Key and Chief Kanagatucko? New research from Ancestry.com 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. 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
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, Ancestry.com 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 Ancestry.com’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.
Who Was Cherokee Chief Kanagatucko?
Cherokee Chief Kanagatucko, also 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.
- Michelle Ercanbrack, family historian for Ancestry.com: “Many actors choose projects based on their personal connection to the character or the story. 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.”
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 we have to discover new connections to your past.