Ancestry.com

Unmasking The Lone Ranger’s Leading Men: Real Life Heroes in Hammer and Depp’s Family Trees

Posted by Ancestry.com on June 26, 2013 in Family Trees, Stories

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.

Quotes:

  • 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.

12 comments

Comments
1 Chris HolcombJune 27, 2013 at 10:18 am

This is pretty neat! Unfortunate Hollywood puts the person without any Native American ancestry whatsoever in the role of the Native American though… I’d love to see a Who Do You Think You Are? episode about these two!

2 MichaelJune 28, 2013 at 8:08 am

Why isn’t there a link to the tree referenced in the article? I don’t want to invade Mr Depp’s privacy, but it would be interesting to see the line of descent for the first two or three generations from Chief Kanagatucko that the researcher believes is part of the pedigree.

3 LaRanda PARVINJune 28, 2013 at 11:38 am

could I getsome help from one of my family members about our Indian heritage, I’m hoping that there is someone to help me with finding out allot about family.please if you know anything I would really appreciate any information.Thank you.

4 BEEJune 28, 2013 at 5:47 pm

Well, always hate to go “off topic”, but I don’t think anyone is reading the blog on the subject where I just posted this and a previous comment on the subject:
Email “Upcoming changes to the search experience on Ancestry.com” with a survey arrived 2:08pm Thursday June 27 asking for “input” – Friday, it’s a done deal??
Didn’t like “New Search” when it started, don’t like it any better now.
Well, I might as well add my first reaction: TWO PERCENT USE “OLD SEARCH”?? AND YOU ARE ASKING FOR MY INPUT? MY INPUT IS, I FIND NOTHING GOOD WITH NEW SEARCH, SO I HAVE NO IDEA HOW IN THE WORLD YOU PLAN TO USE “BEST FEATURES” OF BOTH OLD AND NEW!
I HATE “SURVEYS”, AND NEVER REALLY KNOW HOW TO ANSWER, EXCEPT TO SAY I LIKE EVERYTHING ABOUT “OLD SEARCH”, AND DON’T DISLIKE ANYTHING, BUT I DON’T THINK ANYONE IS GOING TO LISTEN TO ME.
WE “TWO PERCENTERS” HAVE BEEN SAYING FOR YEARS – “IF IT AIN’T BROKE, DON’T FIX IT!”

5 Andy HatchettJune 29, 2013 at 12:39 am

Bee,

You know I love you dearly, but what most of the 2%ers who say that fail to understand is that while OldSearch may not have appearedto be broken to those using it, it was indeed broken to those who had to program and develop it.

It was reaching the end of its development cycle and had a limited update ability that prevented it from taking advantage of new technologies that were developing.

It wasn’t that Ancestry wanted to replace OldSearch- they saw that if they were to continue to have an up to date search engine able to handle these new technologies that OldSearch would have to be replaced.

6 BEEJune 29, 2013 at 6:42 am

Hi Andy, thank you for your response to my “rant”. I guess I’m just an “old-fashioned” girl, and hate “change” in any way.
When I go to “search”, what I see just boggles my “senior” mind, but I suppose I’ll get over it!
C’est la vie!

7 Helen Evans WanamakerJune 29, 2013 at 9:30 am

Hello Bee, I agree with you 100%, I also understand what Andy is talking about. Another meaning for the “technology with ancestry” is keep moving, run faster, no break today. I also have one of those senior minds and would love to learn something really well and be good at it before I have to change the way I have to do it again. I’m a generation or two behind Andy so understanding what to do next is a challenge. Good thing I love Challenges. Most of my friends don’t get involved with new technology. The relatives and friends that I invited to do editing on my family trees, are afraid they will make mistakes. I am not afraid and I really like what I’m doing on ancestry.com.

8 Jo LawrenceJune 29, 2013 at 3:09 pm

Viz the ‘new’ search–when I click on search for a particular person, and go to ‘family trees’, then click on ‘public trees’ suddenly the font goes from pretty readable 10-11 to about a 4–i’m wearing my eyes out! Help–how can this be fixed. It never did that with the ‘old’ version.
Jo

9 Jo LawrenceJune 29, 2013 at 3:13 pm

The Elizabeth Key story is very interesting and one that I have seen in my searching–there are Key’s in my family and i believe she lived with either one of them or a neighbor prior to getting her freedom–I think she was a servant and not a slave, but I could be wrong about that. Anyhoo, pretty amazing considering the era and area she lived in.
Jo

10 BEEJuly 1, 2013 at 6:20 am

I’m happy to see that the blog entitled “New Search Results Page On Ancestry.com” is still open and gathering comments. I hope more people add to it.
Someone added this link: : http://blog.eogn.com/eastmans_online_genealogy/2013/06/ancestrycom-to-change-old-search.html
I’m thinking those who got the “survey” are people who posted on these blogs. The only thing I like on “new search” is the division of “birth/marriage/death”.
This entry says it all for me: “The OLD search is logical and organized and gives you lists of the databases FIRST. Then you can select which database that you want to look in. New search however gives hundreds of pages of single hits, that then require you to scroll page after page after page of garbage, the OLD search organizes everything sweetly into tables. You can progressively work through the tables until you get down to the single person or groups of people that you’re looking for within a very specific time frame and record type. NEW search just piles on junk with no logical organization.”
I didn’t realize that “old search” was still there until I read all these posts – I’m happy to find it again, and will use it as long as possible!

11 JessieJuly 12, 2013 at 9:20 am

This is interesting! I assumed that Armie Hammer was descended from philanthropist Armand Hammer, and looking at IMDB, I found this:

“Armand Douglas Hammer was born in Los Angeles, California, to Dru Ann (Mobley) and Michael Armand Hammer, a businessman. His great-grandfather, Armand Hammer, was a tycoon and philanthropist who ran the company Occidental Petroleum for many decades. Armie is of Russian Jewish, Russian, English, Scots-Irish, and remote Cherokee descent. He has one younger brother, Viktor Hammer. His father is chairman and CEO of the Armand Hammer Foundation, where his mother is a board member. His parents also serve together as board members of the Los Angeles Dream Center and Knoedler & Hammer Galleries in New York. In addition, his father is a member of the board of trustees for Oral Roberts University. His mother was a former bank loan officer and teaches Bible study in Los Angeles.”

I knew Johnny Depp was from the South, so in general, I bet he had no idea what his background was (I’m from the South, too, and do genealogy here). This is what I found in an unofficial comment from IMDB:

“Johnny’s family has lived in Kentucky for many generations, and many of his antecedents have lived in the United States, in general, since the 1600s. His ancestry includes English, as well as Irish, Scots-Irish, Scottish, Welsh, French, Dutch, Belgian (Flemish), German, and 1/2048 Powhatan. Also, in 2013, researchers for Ancestry.com established that Johnny has remote African ancestry; they traced his lineage back to Elizabeth Key, a biracial woman born c. 1630, who was the first woman of African ancestry to successfully sue to emancipate herself from slavery in the North American colonies (she emancipated her son, as well). Johnny has frequently stated that he believes that he has Cherokee, or other recent Native American, ancestry, although this ancestry has never been verified by genealogists. Asked the origin of his last name by James Lipton on Inside the Actors Studio, Depp stated, perhaps jokingly, that his name means ‘idiot’ in German.”

12 Cindy DayOctober 22, 2013 at 9:36 pm

Enjoyed the article perhaps because I was surprised to find that I’m also related to Cherokee Chief Kanagatucko ! Having a blast making new discoveries everyday .

Comment on this articleCommenting is open until Wednesday, 10 July 2013

We really do appreciate your feedback, and ask that you please be respectful to other commenters and authors. Any abusive comments may be moderated.

Add comment

Looking for help with a specific problem? Try contacting Customer Service.

Discuss more Ancestry.com topics in the Message Boards.

About the Ancestry.com blog

Here you will find informational, and sometimes fun, posts from the folks behind the scenes here at Ancestry.com. We hope you’ll notice just how passionate we are about family history and about the products we’re building to help connect families over distance and time.

Visit Ancestry.com
Notifications

Receive updates from the Ancestry.com blog Learn more